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Full text of "Two years in the Klondike and Alaskan gold-fields; a thrilling narrative of personal experiences and adventures in the wonderful gold regions of Alaska and the Klondike, with observations of travel and exploration along the Yukon ... including full and authentic information of the countries described .."

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fA Returned Gold Miner and Prospector) 

BEauti'fiillo Bhtstratcti 






Entered according to Act of Congress, in tlie year 1898 
By the Iiartford Publisbing Company 

In the Office of ttie Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C. 



Srom ^|)eciaf ^^ofograp^e ^Oibt cy^jreBsfg for i?>i& n2?orft, M\i> 

Along the Dyea TraiI;, . . . Frontispiece 

A lone gold-seeker crossing the Dyea River on his way to the Gold 

In Camp on the Dyea River after a Day's March, 

Facing 58 

A Supper of Beans and Coffee, . . Facing 76 

A party of gold-seekers eating their supper at the entrance to Miles 

A Tired and Disgusted Party of Gold-seekers, 

Facing 94 
Looking for hotel accommodations on the Dyea Trail. The signs 
"Hotel," "Lodgings," "Meals," and so forth, indicate that these 
accommodations are to be found only in the snow-covered tent. 

A Dog Team on the Yukon River, . . .99 

On the way to the Gold Fields. 

Rafting down the Yukon River, . Facing 116 

The mining outfit of these two Klondikers, consisting of provisions, 
arms, camp equipage, dogs, and so forth, is piled on to their rude raft. 

A Long and Hard Journey over the Skagway 

Trail, . . . . . Facing 142 

Entrance to the Canon. Two Klondikers with heavy packs making 
their way on foot through the deep snow. 






8. A Hakd Place on the Tkail, . . Facing 168 

Packers transport iiig the goods and outfits of gold-seekers over the 
Skagway Trail. 

9. On the Move, ..... Facing 186 

A long pack train of heavily-loaded horses en route to the Gold Fields. 

10. Testing a Stream for Gold, . . Facing 2U6 

A gold-seeker panning for gold in a small creek in the Klondike Gold 

11. Crossing the Skagway River, . . Facing 234 

The bridge consists of the trunk of a single tree over \\hich two gold- 
seekers are making their way. This is only one of many similar places 
along the trail. 

12. An Exciting Time, .... Facing 272 

Arrival of the first Yukon steamer at Dawson. 

13. Ready for Winter, . . . Facing 292 

A wayside cabin on the Skagway Trail, made of logs and whip-sawed 
boards. The chinks between the logs are filled with mud and moss. 


14. After a Day's March, . . . Facing 312 

A party of gold-seekers just after pitching their tent on the Skag\vay 

15. Caught on the Trail, . . . Facing 342 

A party of gold-seekers who failed to get over the summit in the fall. 
Their provisions are cached in the little hut at the right. The party win- 
tered here until spring enabled them to continue their journey. 

16. "White Pass Hotel" on the Skagway Trail, Facing 360 

Contrast size of the sign with that of the " Hotel." The latter consists 
of only a small log hut. 

17. A Mid-winter Camp at the Mouth op Skagway 

Canon, ...... Facing 378 

Tents afford the only shelter from the heavy suow'S-and bitter cold of 
an Arctic winter. 

18. Tf>o Late. A Disappointed Pair op Gold-seekers, 

Facing 400 
They failed to reach their destination before winter set in. Here they 
cached their outfit and food before returning to civilization to wait until 
spring. The trunk of a tree was erected as a landmark to guide them 
to the spot on their return. 

19. On the Border, .... Facing 434 

Canadian mounted police collecting Customs duty from Klondikers 
at the point where the Canadian Government has established a boundary 
line at White Pass. The huge pile of boxes, bags, and goods of all kinds 
belong to gold-seekers en route to the Gold Fields. 



20. A Restaurant and its Proprietor on the Dye a 

Trail, ...... Facing 450 

The sign " Meals " is painted on the remains of a pair of old trousers. 

21 . A Blockade on the Skagway Trail, . Facing 460 

22. A Pack Train Crossing the Skagway Trail in 

Winter, ..... Facing 468 

23. Mid-winter on the Trail, . . . Facing 490 

Tent of a pah- of gold-seekers pitched by the side of a corduroy 
bridge in Skagway Canon. 

24. A One-horse Sledge Team, . . . Facing 510 

A pair of gold-seekers on their way to the Gold Fields. 

25. Snowed in. Waiting for Better Weather, Facin/j 528 

A gold-seeker clad in his parka, with dog and horse, near his snow- 
covered tent. 



Boyhood on a Vermont Farm — Scanty Rewards of Toil — Forgetting 
the Cows — My Father Has Ambitions for Me — I Am Sent to School 
but Am Negligent in Study — The Mystery of Inheritance — Book 
Knowledge — I Choose a Business Career in the City — Behind a 
Counter in a Dry-goods Store — My Unhappy Lot — Sighing for 
the Great West — Temptation to Break Away — It Finally Over- 
comes Me — News of Wonderful Finds of Gold — I Take My Little 
Belongings and Arrive in Chicago — Life as a Brakeman — Falling 
in with Gold Miners — Something about Nuggets — A Tramp's 
Luck — The Creede Rush — Cripple Creek — Two Irish Boys and 
Their Mountain Patch — Alaska for the Gold-Seeker, . , 33 



My Meager Ideas of the Territory — Joe Draws on His Store of Infor- 
mation — Vast Extent of the Country — Dull and Dirty Natives — 



A Race of Shirks — Habits of tlio Dogs — Navigatiou of the Yukon 
— Mosquitoes That "Kill Bears "— Story of the Miners' Search 
for Gold on the Yukon — A Pioneer Prospecting Party — Some of 
the Early Finds — Gold Everywhere — The Klondike Moose Pas- 
ture — Despised by the Gold-Seekers — Coarse Gold on Forty -Mile 
Creek— The Rise of the Town — Sixty Mile — Miller and Glacier 
Creeks — A Missionary Picks up a Nugget — Founding of 
Circle City — My Partner Becomes Impatient — Making Our Plans 
— ^^We Proceed to San Francisco — Buying an Outfit — What It 
Consisted of — Our 31ediciue Chest — Over a Ton and a Half to 
Carry — A Peep into the Future — Ominous Suggestions, . 45 



Departure from San Francisco — Port Townsend — Through Puget 
Sound — Points of Interest and Beauty — A Gap in the Island Belt 
— Few Moments of Seasickness — The Great Scenic Region — la 
Alaskan Waters — Tide Water Glaciers — Juneau as a Metropolis — 
A Glimpse of Totem Poles — Indian Traders — The Mines of the 
Vicinity and their Discovery — Famous Tread well Mills — The 
Largest in the World — The Skagway and Dalton Trails — Pro- 
ceeding to Dyea — Dumped on the Beach — Getting Supplies 
Together and Beyond the Tide — The Problem of Moving Ahead — 
Approached by Indian Packers — Dangers of Bidding up Prices — 
A Contract with the Heathen — Our First Night in Camp — Dark 
Ways of the Chilkoots, 58 




Along the Famous Dyea Trail — Walking Twenty Miles and Making 
Four — Snow, Boulders, and Glaciers —Exhibitions of Grit — Tent- 
ing in the Snow — A Democratic Crowd — The Yukon Stove — 
The So-called Gridiron — Beans and Bacon — "It will be New On 
the Yukon" — Asleep on a Bed of Boughs — What a Trail Consists 
of — A Crack Two Miles Long — Pleasant Camp — Sheep Camp 
and the Faint-Hearted — A Discouraged Man and a Resolute 
Woman — Going Over Anyhow — Not All so Brave — Having a 
Good Cry — My Theory as to the Fortitude of Some Women — 
Throwing off the Fetters of Civilization — Two Weeks of Storm — 
]\Ionotony and Silence — An Active Glacier Entertains Us — Nature' s 
Untamed Moods — Sunshine at Last, 72 



A Steep Trail — Climbing the Mountain Forty Times — Some of the 
Difficulties — Missteps that are Dangerous — Straight up over 
Seven Hundred Feet — An Obscure Summit — Facilitating the Re- 
turn — Trousers Fortified with a Canvas Patch — A Slide in the 
Trench — Tobogganing Outdone — A Collision — Out of Sight in 
the Deep Snow— " There Comes a Woman " — Down Like a Flash 

— Runaway Sleds — An Alaskan Sunburn — Snow-blindness — A 
Painful Experience — On the Summit at Last — A Grand Spectacle 

— Turning Sleds Loose down the Mountain — Bounding over 
Crater Lake — Lake Lindeman — Observing the Timber — The 


Irresponsible Indian — Signaling by Burning Trees — Ice-sledding 
across Lindeman — Flapjacks and Congratulations, . . 85 



Our Camp at Lake Tagish — Building a Boat — The Saw Pit — Pre- 
paring the Trees — Whip-sawing — Its Effect on Character — An 
Accident — Almost a Quarrel — A Case in Which Angels Would 
Lose their Amiability — Spoiling the First Log — " Work it Some- 
how " — The Dish-Rag and the Dog — A Bargain — Adventure of a 
New Yorker with a Bear and Three Cubs — An Excited 3Ian — 
He Empties His Gun and Nearly Kills His Dog — I Lend Him 
My Rifle — The Bear Finally Gives It Up — Catching the Cubs — 
Tough Hams — Our Triumphant Return — An Old Timer's Bear 
Story — Face to Face with a Wounded Bear — Playing Possum — 
Just in Time — A Narrow Escape, 100 



We Name Our Boat the Tar Stater — More Handsome than Adequate 
— Drifting amid Scenes of Wild Grandeur — Magical Vegetation — 
Fifty Mile River — At the Mouth of the Caiaon — We Conclude to 
Pack Around — Several Boats Go Through — The Trail — An Offer 
to Take the Tar Stater Through for 85 — 1 Am Invited to Ride, 
and Accept — A Quick Repentance — Discarding Gum Boots — A 
Serious Catastrophe — At the Mercy of the Current — Clinging to 
an Overturned Boat — Over Again — Saved — A Four-Minute 


Experience — The Milk is Spilled — Loss of an $800 Outfit — 
Recovering Our Boat — Towards White Horse Rapids — Disap- 
pearance of the Sugar Saved from the Wreck — I Am Mad — 
Strapping on My Gun — Looking for a Camp Thief — Sympathy 
for Us — A Phase of Yukon Life, 118 



Through the White Horse Rapids in an Empty Boat — Close Shave for 
the Tar Stater — Rough to Experience but Interesting to Watch — 
Overtaking Three Boats — I find the Sack of Sugar and the Thief 
— Swift Preparations for a Lynching Bee — " Say the Word and Up 
He Goes " — I Refuse — " Nothing Less Than Fifty Lashes, Then " — 
I Administer Them on the Thief's Bare Back — The Victim Becomes 
a Good Citizen — Lake Lebarge and Tagish Indians — Eggs for a 
Change — In the Twilight of the Midnight — Nature in Her Great 
Work — Cutting Down Hills and Valleys — Where Eagles Nest — 
Twisting and Turning — Five Fingers — Rink Rapids — Arrival at 
Fort Selkirk — A Touch of Civilization — The Route Marked with 
Graves of the Fallen — Reflections on the Journey, . . 128 



The Latest News — The Swift Yukon and Its Branches — The Upper 
Ramparts — White River and Its Probable Sources — Stewart River 
and the Tales of Indians — Reports of Prospectors — Sixty Mile 


Creek — Passing the Mouth of the Troan-Dik or Klondike — Its 
Various Names and How They Were Obtained — A Peep at the 
Moose Pasture — Moose Skin Mountain — Old Fort Reliance — Forty 
Mile and Its Institutions — Justice as Administered at Miners- 
3Ieetings — A Little German's Trouble — French Joe's Experience 

— A Tailor and His Bill — The Canadian Police — A Plague of 
Mosquitoes — How They Operate and How Their Bites Work — 
Old Pharaoh's Troubles Not a Circumstance — What Miners Suffer 

— No Preventive Sufficient — Tough Miners Sit and Cry — 3Iore 
Indian Tales — Bears and Dogs in a Frenzy — Frost Comes as a 
Blessing, 141 



Pushing on to Circle City — Some of the Yukon Creeks — Old Man 
Rock and Old Woman Rock — A Flight of Native Fancy — The 
Poor Man and His Scolding Wife — His Last Resort and its 
Petrifying Results — Prospecting American Creek — Our Lumber 
Venture — A Thunder Storm and a Wreck — Escaping on the 
Tar Stater — Arriving at Circle City — Our Reception — Some of 
the City's Institutions — Convenience of the Saloons — No money 
but Gold Dust — How Purchases Are Made — The Dance Halls — 
The Relaxation of Faro — Dogs Invade Our Boat — Their Thieving 
Propensities — Faithful Workers — Their Enormous and Indiscrim- 
inating Appetite — Eating Their Harness — An Arctic Turnout — 
The Dog Whip and Its Uses— The Yukon Sled—" Ouk," "Arrah," 
and "Holt," 158 




Society in Circle City — Cabin Doors Open — The Pimishment of Evil- 
doers — Miners' Meetings — Methods of Procedure — Judge and 
Jury — No Pistols — Our Money Runs Low — Joe Hurries to the 
Mines — Great Demand for Log Buildings — High Price of Lots — 
Process of Building a Cabin — Two Things to Remember — How 
the Moss Comes into Play — Doors and Windows — The Interior 
of Cabins — Rude Furniture — Unique Beds — Something More 
Substantial — The Yukon Palace — Access to the Second Story — 
How Storm Sheds are Made — Tents Good Enough for People 
with No Gold Dust — A Man With an Axe a Skilled Workman — 
A Bustling Scene — Logs and Chips Everywhere — An Ounce a 
Day for Some Workmen — Dreaming of a Coming Metropolis on 
the Yukon 173 



Misleading Rate of Wages — Cost of Bringing Provisions to the Yukon 
Valley — A Sample Price-List at a Circle City Store — Value of Fresh 
Meat — A Roast of Beef — A Woman Who Baked Bread at a Dollar 
a Loaf — Fourteen Loaves a Day on a Yukon Stove — Monotony of 
Diet — Ordinary Laws of Agriculture Upside Down — Difficulties 
of Raising Garden Stuff — Plenty of Berries in the Summer — A 
Dream of Agricultural Possibilities — Deceptive Flatlands — Nig- 
gerheads and How They Grow — Grass That Makes Poor Fodder — 
A Question of Transportation — Has Not Been Regarded as a Poor 
Man's Country — Competition in the Stores — Jack McQuesten — 


A Groat Night at Circle City — Order of Yukon Pioneers — Ai 
Indication of the Hardships of Alaskan Life, . . . 183 



The Trail up Birch Creek — Some of the Gulches — Great Cost of Wood 

— The Process of Placer Mining — How the Prospector AVorks — 
Testing the Dirt — The Miner's Pan — The Trick of Shaking Out 
Gold -^ All the Fascination of Gambling — Nature Holds the Cards 

— Placer Mining Conditioned by the Climate — The Old Process of 
Sun-Thawing — Soil That Resists Picks, Dynamite, and Hydraulics 

— Where Fire Burning is Necessary — Burning at Night — A Long 
Process — Sinking through the Muck — Rockers — Sluices and 
How They are Constructed — Nature Caught in the Act — Claims 
Regulated by the Miners Themselves — The Birch Creek Yield of 
Gold 199 



Down the Yukon River — Yukon Steamers — Flat-Bottoms and Stern- 
Wheels — Carrying Machine Shops Along — A Perfect Labyrinth of 
Water — Going Wherever ItsVarying Moods Take It — Barren Islands 
— Fort Yukon — Lazy and Filthy Natives — Trading for Curios with 
Yukon Indians — Birch and Beaver Creeks — A Sudden Change — 
Out of the Flatlands into the Ramparts — Some Good-Looking 
Creeks — The Munook — The Great Tanana River — Wooding Up 


— Indian Settlements — The Women and Children — Dogs Galore 
— The Inevitable Ca(;he — Nowikakat — Short Cut Portages to the 
Coast — Thrilling Journey of a Party of Miners — Almost Ex- 
hausted and Starved — Perils of Traveling in Alaska, . . 215 



Holy Cross Mission — Soap at Laet Has Legal-Tender Value — Some 
Domestic Scenes — Close Race with the Climate — The Sisters of 
St. Anue — Mass in a Log Church — The Untutored Innuits — 
Their Unpleasant Environment — Queer Heirlooms — Geese and 
Ducks Find a Favorable Abode — The Trip to the Coast — ^'St. 
Michael — Why Ocean Steamers have to Anchor a Mile and a Half 
Out — Alaska Commercial Company — Fort Get-There — A Lone 
Government Official — The Question of Transferring Cargoes — 
Characteristics of the Natives — Watching a Chance to Reach 
the Yukon's Mouth — Difficulties of Getting in with a Load — 
Breasting the Swift Current — A Hard Nut to Crack — Return- 
ing up the River, 227 



Something Has Happened — Forty Mile Almost Deserted — A Genuine ■ 
Stampede — The Discovery on the Thron-diuck or Klondike — 
Henderson's Find on Gold Bottom — He Returns for Provisions — 
Meeting Cormack's Fishing Party — He Tells of His Discovery — 




Cormack Concludes to Find Gold Bottom — Over the Trail — Re- 
turns to His Fishing Camp — Prospects a Little on His Way — 
Stumbles on a Good Pan on Bonanza Creek — Claims for Himself, 
Tagish Charlie, and Tagish Jim — Siwash George's Reputation for 
Truth and Veracity — Where Did He Get the Gold ? — Tremendous 
Excitement — Forty Mile Deserted — Old Miners Lack Faith — 
Skim Diggings — Highly- Colored Tales — I Conclude to Go and 
See for Myself — Poling Up Stream — Returning Prospectors Shoot 
By Us — "It's a Big Thing, Boys " — Never Mind the Blisters — 
Tired and Footsore — A Lively Camp — Trying to Sleep — Ten 
Dollars to the Pan, 240 



Preparations for a Start — Over the Mountain into the Swamps — A 
Hard Tramp — Cranberries to Quench Thirst — A Mysterious Pup 
— The Klondike Valley from the Summit — Glimpse of the Arctic 
Rockies — "AH the Goold in the Worruld" — An Old Story — 
Hurrying On — On Bonanza Creek at Last — Calculating the Dis- 
tance — Blowing a Little — Looking for I^enry Ward Beecher — A 
Disgusted Irishman — Too Tired to Keep On — A Look at the 
Gravelly Bar — I form a Poor Opinion — Ready to Change My 
Mind — Too Tired to Care — Forgetting One's Name — Chilled 
Through — Nuggets Fished Out with a Shovel — Washing Out 
the Gold — Objects of Suspicion — Pushing on for a Claim — 
Indications Do Not Count — I Stake My Claim — Starting Back 
in the Rain — Over the Trail Again — Our Turn to Yell, . 253 




Resting a Little — Carrying in Provisions — Promising Strikes of one 
of the Pups — Eldorado — Joining Another Stampede — A New 
Metropolis — Joseph Ladue and His Career — Mining in the Black 
Hills — Attracted to Alaska — Sinking Holes without Success — 
Faith in the Country — Grub-staking Henderson — How Ladue 
Secured the Site for Dawson — -His Sawmill — The Mines in 
October — High Price of Lumber — Rapid Growth of Dawson — 
Much Confusion as to Claims — Miners Appointed to Measure — 
Fractional Claims — How They Came About — The Mystery of 
the Rope — Hibernian Bluff — Jim White and His Attempt to 
Secure a Fractional Claim — The Canadian Surveyor Arrives — 
"Three Inch White" — How Claims are Staked — The Fees and 
the Requirements, 265 



Realization of the Richness of the Klondike Claims — Why old Miners 
were Skeptical — How Tenderfeet Suddenly Became Rich — Selling 
Claims at Low Figures — Cutting Logs to Get Provisions — El- 
dorado All Staked — Great Stroke for Some Men — Circle City 
Skeptical — The First Big Pans — Excitement at Circle City — A 
Mad Stampede — Scarcity of Dogs — Dogs at $2.50 Per Pound 
— Some Big Strikes — Grumbling Canadians — Bed-Rock on 
Eldorado — Lippy's Bargain — Nothing Like It in the History 
of the World — Pans of Dirt Worth Five Hundred Dollars — 



The Miners Simply Staggered — Mrs. Berry Picks up $50 in 
Nuggets While Calling Her Husband to Supper — Scarcity of 
Labor — Hunting up Claims — Gold Everywhere, . . 280 



Dreariness of Camp Life — Preparations for Winter — Cut Off from 
the World — Even Labels Make Interesting Reading Matter — The 
Only Library in the Camp — A Few Old Newspapers — Nuggets 
for the Benefactor — Joe Arrives from Circle City — Gold, Gold 
the one Topic of Interest — Forgetting the Day of the Month — 
Domestic Duties — How We Kept House — Things That Must Not 
Be Neglected — A Remedy that Kills or Cures — My Bread and 
Biscuit — A New Recipe — Exorbitant Prices for Necessaries of 
Life — Some of the Other Expenses — A Trip to Dawson — A Bit 
of Recreation — Christmas in Camp — Story of a Christmas at Fort 
Cudahy — No Turkey or Plum Pudding — A Klondike Christmas 
— Presents for the Half-Breeds — How Toys were Obtained — A 
Scene of Merriment — A Yukon Santa Claus — First Christmas 
Party on the Klondike, 291 



The Paradox of Alaskan Weather — A Difference in Humidity — 
Miners' Thermometers — Time to Take Care of One's self — Seventy- 
two Degrees below Zero — Sunset and Sunrise — Dangers on the 


Trail — We Discard the Hut and Take to the Tent — Building 
Fires in the Morning — Hearing One's Breath Strike the Air — An 
Involuntary Bath — Paiul'ul Experiences — Eyelids Freeze To- 
gether — Protection against the Bitter Cold — The Parka and Its 
Uses — An Alaskan Opera Cloak — As a Frost Protector — Care of the 
Feet — Snow Shoes — Shortage in the Food Supply — How it Seems 
to be without Salt — Sold for Its Weight in Gold — The Pulling- 
Through Process — Northern Lights as a Compensation for a Win- 
ter in Alaska — Tlieir Brilliancy, 305 



Joe and I Have Poor Luck — Trying to Locate the Pay-Streak — Big 
Pans in March and April — Pay-Dirt — How the Value of the Dirt 
is Reckoned — Old Miners Begin to Speculate — Expense of Getting 
Sluice Boxes — Some of the Fortunes — Berry and His Wonderful 
Strike — Very Blue when He Heard of the Klondike — Takes Out 
$130,000 — A Bird in the Hand vs. a Bird in the Bush — A Wiscon- 
sin Schoolmaster's Experience — Worth a Million — Better than 
Trading — Sudden Rise in the Value of Claims — Computing the 
Value of a Bonanza Claim — Wonderful Results — The Aggregate 
Amount of the Spring Work — Some of the Lucky Ones on El- 
dorado Creek — Fortunes on the Bonanza — Lucky Days — " What 
AVill I Do With All That Money V " 318 





Gold by the Ton — The Unfortunate Ones — Alaska Mining a Lottery 

— Deceptive Placers — Weary Men Who Show No Nuggets — Ex- 
perience of an Old Scotchman — Mining for Forty -Two Years — 
A " Homestake " at Last — Poor Luck Still Followed Him — 
Others Less Fortunate — Feeling of the Old Miners When They 
Saw the Teuderfeet Taking Out Gold — A Little too Much — 
Hardships of a Miner — His First Good Luck — Neal McArthur 
and His Narrow Escapes — Scarcely Making a Living — Catching 
at a Straw — Hard Conditions of a Prospector's Life — Troubles 
after Gold is Found — The Massachusetts Man and His "Boy" — 
Threatened by Claim- Jumpers — The Old Man Shot — The Boy 
Handles the Gun and Turns Out to Be a Pretty Girl — A Heroic 
Act — Queer People — An Old Slave from down in Georgia — His 
Lucky Strike, ' .... 328 



News of the Outside World — When the Ice Goes Out of the River — 
It "Marks Time" — An Unpleasant Sight for a Hungry j\Ian — 
Grub at Last — Happy Incident of a Yukon Honeymoon — Mrs. 
McKay's Story — Death of a Baby — The Little Casket and the 
Grave by Lake Lindeman — Misfortunes of John Matthews — His 
Troubles Over — Impression of the Trail — Strong Men Dismayed 
at the Outlook — Trying to Look Cheerful — Learning of the 
Klondike Discoveries — Taken for a Man — Over the Summit — 
Ravenous Appetites of the Men — Through the Canon and the 


Rapids — A "Woman's Experience — Clinging to the Boat in Terror 
— In the Presence of Death — Quick Decisions of Gold-Seekers — 
Many Unfit for Work in Alaska — The Situation Facing the 
Tenderfoot — Where Shall He Find Gold? — "Did You Take 
This for a Picnic?" 338 



A Cit}^ Laid out on a Bog — Natural Floral Displays — Lousetown — 
A Cold Place in Winter — Fabulous Rise in the Price of Building 
Lots — Expense of Log Cabins — Making Money Quickly — Expe- 
rience of a Cigar Drummer — Clearing §20,000 in Twenty Days in 
Real Estate Options — Better than Mining — Spring Water at Twen- 
ty-five cents a Pail — Money Brought in by New Comers — Bonanza 
Kings and Millionaires — Alec McDonald and His Investments — 
" Satin Bags," the Italian Bonanza King — Indulging in a Square 
Meal at a Dawson Restaurant — " Your Bill is §52 " — How it was 
Itemized — Pack Horses with Gold Dust — One of the Horses 
Missing — An Exciting Mystery — A Vision of Highway Robbers — 
The Lost Horse Returns Safely — Just Stopped to Graze — Found 
Dead with $30,000 — The Strain of Too Hard Work, . . 354 



Saloons and Gambling the Natural Products of New Mining Camps — 
Strange Sights and Sounds — Gold Dust as Free as Water — 


Saloous aud Tlieir ' ' Brace Games " — Who Pay the Fiddlers — 
Expeusive Society — " Stiid-Horse Poker" and High Stakes — 
Methods at the Faro Table — Gold Bags in Pigeon Holes — Settling 
Up — "Shorty's" Fatal Forgetfulness — Few Instances of Shoot- 
ing Now — Ruling Prices in Saloons — The "Rake Off"— When 
"Swiftwater Bill" Breaks Loose — Losing $7,500 in an Hour — 
Appearance of Gambling Places — The Dance Halls and the 
Women — Gallant Partners in Spiked Boots — An Occasional Free 
Fight — Tobacco-Laden Atmosphere — Tired and Dishevelled 
Women — More Orderly than Mining Camps in the Rockies — 
Not a Hard, Reckless, Wide-Open Town — Harvard, Yale, and 
Vassar Graduates, 370 



Too Many Sports for the Demand — The Arrest of Frank Novak, the 
Murderer — History of His Crime — Enticing an Irish Farmer to 
His Death — Searching for Novak — The Wrong Man Arrested — 
Another Clue — It Takes the Detective to Vancouver — Searching 
Resorts on the Coast — Every Ship's Crew Questioned — Requisi- 
tion on the Governor of Alaska — Gone to the Klondike — Extradi- 
tion Papers from Washington — Taken to Ottawa — Over the 
Chilkoot in Pursuit — Passing the Fugitive without Suspecting 
Him — The Pursued Follows the Pursuer — Arrival at Dawson — 
Searching the Camps — Giving it Up — Arrest of the Murderer — 
Returning by the Yukon — A Chase of 25,000 Miles, . . 382 




A Little Home Life — Two White Women in Camp the First Winter — 
Mrs. Lippy the Pioneer — Mrs. Berry's Story of Her Journey — Be- 
ginning to Despair — Starting for the Klondike — A Cabin Unfit to 
Live In — Picking Up Nuggets of Gold — Wading in Mud Waist 
Deep — Housekeeping No Joke — Arrival of a Plucky Little 
Wife — Makes Her Home on a Scow — On Terra Firma at Last — 
An Eye to Business — One Hundred Dollars a Month for Caring 
for Two Children — In Doubt as to the Day of the Week — Dogs 
and Mosquitoes, "but the Gold 's all Right " — Romantic Career of 
a Woman — Joins the Stampede from Circle City — Cooking 
for $15 a Day — Facing Claim-Jumpers — Making $12,000 in a Few 
Weeks — Opportunities to Marry Rich Husbands — Gallantry of 
the Men — What a Woman Should Wear, .... 392 



Spreading Out Over the Wild Country — Stampedes a Daily Occur- 
rence — How they were Started — Enterprise of an Exhausted 
Party — Returning from One Rush Only to Fall in with Another — 
The Astounding Results on Hunker Creek — Sudden Rise of Skoo- 
kum Gulch — How it was Discovered — Kicking Over Boulders 
and Finding Gold — Bench Claims — Strike on Dominion Creek — 
An Old German's Good Luck on Sulphur Creek — Endeavoring to 
Keep it Quiet — The News Leaks Out — Another Great Stampede — 
Joe and I Conclude to See for Ourselves — A Misstep and a Drench- 


iug in Ice Water — lDi""ed aud Exhausted — A Bliudiug Storm — 
"Oh, for a Little Meat" — Joe Starts to Hunt for a Moose — 
Returns and Finds Me Helpless — "I Guess I'm Done For" — A 
Long Night and Day — Walking in a Circle — I Revive on Moose 
Broth — My Last Prospecting Trip, 407 




Midnight Rush to Montana Creek — Staking by Torchlight — A Pugil- 
ist on Hand — Locaters Rested after Their Journey — Their Stakes 
Stealthily Removed and Others Substituted — The First to Record 
Takes the Claim — Great Stampede to All Gold Creek — The 
Rush for Bryant Creek — Intended to be Named for William J. Bryan 
— Result of the Slip of the Pen — Neglecting to Record for Fear 
Something Better Would be Found — Tenderfeet Frozen Out — 
Waiting Three Days to Reach the Gold Commissioner — The 
Country Staked for a Hundred Miles Around — Frauds Perpe- 
trated — Impossibility for the Officers to Measure Claims during 
the Wild Stampedes — Wild Race down the Frozen Yukon to 
Buy a Claim — Old Miners' Belief in Stewart River — Gold Found 
Everywhere — Difficulties of Prospecting on the Stewart — Some 
of the Gold-Bearing Creeks Which May Be Heard From — In the 
Same Belt as the Klondike, 420 




Attention Paid the Yukon District by Canadian Government after 
Gold Discoveries — Concerned Over Loss of Revenue — Detach- 


ment of Police Sent Iq — When the Organization was Formed — 
Its Principal Features — Officers and Constables — The Yukon 
Territory — Powers of the Gold Commissioner — His Word Final 
in All Cases as to Claims — Experience of a Seattle Man — How a 
Double Sale was Quickly Untangled — Government Rights over 
the Yukon Region — The Proposed Royalty — Indignation of the 
Miners — A Meeting and a Protest — Possibilities of Trouble — 
Uncertainty of the Mails — Difficulties of a Carrier — Mail Matter 
Taken by Returning Miners and Thrown Away on the Trail — A 
Matter of Life or Death, 431 



Seeking an Easier Pass than the Chilkoot — Why Gold-Seekers Began 
to Stop at Skagway — A Peaceful Scene in July — The Original 
Promoters Quickly Overwhelmed — A Thousand Tents and a 
Thousand Pack Animals — Organizing the Town — Marvelous 
Real Estate Business — How a Hotel Keeper Announced His 
Facilities — A More Modest Announcement — "Any Old Thing 
Bought and Sold " — Tons of Provisions Scattered on the Beach — 
Saloons and Dance Halls — An Opening Night — The Symbol of 
Law and Order — Herds of Gambling Men — " An Easy Graft " — 
Greenhorns at Packing — Runaway Animals — Many Ludicrous 
Scenes — The Serious Side — A Clergyman's Observations — The 
Part tlie Women Played — Widow Maloney's Debating Society — 
Respect for the Chair — Debating the Merits of Armies of the 
World — Some Race Feeling — Mrs. Maloney Does Not Permit 
Abuse of " Ould Ireland" — A Hundred Days of Growth — 
" Biggest " Town in Alaska 446 





Au Impassable Trail — The Blockade — Stories Brought to Dawson — 
Principal Features of the White Pass Route — Slippery Places for 
Horses — Over Precipices into the River — Porcupine Hill — 
Where Most of the Horses Were Lost — The Sight of a Life Time — 
Death on Summit Lake — Efforts to Open the Trail — All Kinds 
of Pack Animals — Scarcity of Fodder — Selling Hay and Throw- 
ing in the Horses — The Big Marsh — Floundering in tlie Mud — 
Thieving on the Trail — Looking for Pierre, the Frenchman — 
Discovered with Stolen Goods — Appealing to Hearts of Stone — 
Six Shots Sounding as One — The Limp Form of a Thief Hanging 
bj' the Wayside — A Heap of Stones Cast on the Body — Chances 
to Make Money on the Trail, 459 



Miners Hasten to Secure Provisions — Companies Fear Speculation in 
Food — Eggs at $4 a Dozen — Good Mining Claims Traded for 
Provisions — Candles at a Dollar Apiece — Waiting Three Hours to 
File an Order — The Trading Companies Confer — Doling Out 
Provisions — The Steamboats near Fort Yukon — Fruitless Efforts 
to Get over the Bar — Captain Hansen's Efforts — Returning to 
Dawson — Watching the River for the Steamboats — The Situation 
Realized — Plenty of Whisky, but Little to Eat — Police without 
Supplies — The Warehouses Threatened — Police Contemplate the 


Necessity of Seizing Provisions — Fancy Prices for Dogs — Mine 
Owners Threatened by Failure to Pay Debts, . . . 476 



A Great Day iu Dawson — Drawing Lots to Determine Wlio Should 
Go — The Restaurants All Closed — Effort to Go Up the River 
Thirty-five Miles in Seven Days — The Party Finally Returns — 
People Pouring iu While Others Were Pouring out — Arriving 
With AVorthless Outfits or None at All — Swept By Dawson iu the 
Running Ice — Petty Larceny Becomes Frequent — Food Scarce at 
Circle City — Men Arrive from Circle City Badly Frozen — Suffer- 
ing on the River — Exiles Badly Frozen — Sad Fate of Young 
Anderson — Wounded, His Friends Dragged Him on a Rude 
Sled — Dying within Sight of Circle City — Thawing an Arctic 
Grave — The Funeral — Extracts from His Diary — Strong Miners 
Weep — The Scarcity of Supplies — A Restaurant Price List — A 
Fresh Supply of Caribou Meat — Curtailing the Work on the 
Mines — Those Left Pull Through, 486 



A Rival to Dawson and the Klondike — American Territory Preferable 
— Old Munook and Little Munook — Taking a Fortune from a 
Small Hole — Stream Prospected Before — The First Excitement — 



Stampedes from the Arriving Steamboats — Beginnings of Ram- 
part City — Arrival of the Hamilton — Crew Stampedes and Takes 
the Knives and Forks — A Literary Woman's Rush for a Claim — 
Settling in the New Camp — High Prices for Claims — Taking 
out $1,500 in Five Days — The Fever of Speculation — Wealth of 
a Man with a House and Lot — High Price of Timber — The 
Rough Trails — Fatal Experience of Two Yale Graduates — 
Spending the First Night on Hoosier Creek — Taking Food for 
Only One Day — A Terrible Night — Tucker Falls Exhausted — 
Running for Help — Secured at Last — Returning to Find His 
Companion Dead — Buried in the Wild Gulch — Situation of 
Munook — High Value of Its Gold 496 



Preparing for the Winter — Our Gold Dust — Returning to Dawson 
We Realize the Food Situation — We are Unable to Secure Pro- 
visions for the Winter — Selling Our Claims and Counting Our 
Fortune — Down or Up the River ? — We Decide to Return for 
a Good Outfit — Dogs an Expensive Luxury — Encountering 
Wrecks — Difficulties at Lewis River — Picking up Tales of 
Hardship and Suffering — Hardships of a Man with Poor Dogs — 
A Young Man with Frozen Feet Left to Die in a Hut — A Young 
Woman Rescued from Death — Lashed to a Sled — We Arrive at 
the Canon — A Cry from Joe — Into the Icy Rapids — Last of 
Poor Joe — I Sit Down and Cry — My Awful Predicament — Pro- 
visions, but Nothing Else — A Sad and Lonely Journey — A Tent 
Buried in the Snow — Saved! — " Got Anj^ Grub ? " — Kicking the 
Dogs out of the Snow — Over the Chilkoot in a Blizzard — 
Homeward Bound — "Poor Joe!" ..... SO.') 






At Seattle — The Stampede of 1898 — Nothing to Compare with It — 
The Days of '49 Eclipsed — Transportation Engaged in Advance — 
Fitting Up Vessels to Accommodate the Trade — " Klondicitis " — 
The Topic of Conversation Everywhere — Preparing Outfits — 
Returning Klondikers Besieged — Women and Children Have the 
Fever — Old Gold-Seekers Aroused — All Sorts of Men Join in 
the Rush — Great Exodus from California — Associations of 
Women — Gold Dust on Exhibition — The Craze Reaches Jerusa- 
lem — A Quarter of a Million of People — How It Appeared to 
a Returned Klondiker — All After Gold — Money Spent for Out- 
fits—What It May Mean — Doubling the Gold Production 
in a Single Year — If All Make Fortunes Gold Will Become 
Cheap, 519 



Waiting for More Thorough Prospects — Comparative Smallnessof the 
Klondike District — Room for a Million to be Lost in — The Klon- 
dike all Located — The Government's Gold Map — Traces of Gold 
Everywhere — Most of Alaska Unexplored — Some Comparisons 
with Early Production in California — Difference in Conditions — 
Obstacles to be Overcome — Possibly a Dozen Klondikes — Induce- 
ments for Quartz Mining — A Belt of Rich Rock Thousands of 
Miles Long — The Quartz Mines of Unga Island — A String of 


Islands that ]May bo Rich in Gold — A Test of Klondike Quartz — 
Credit for the First Diseovery — Cook Inlet and Its Mines — The 
Benefit of Waiting a Little Longer — The Copper River Country — 
Stories of Rich Diggings — Friendly Indians with Mineral AVealth 
—Points of Distribution — Unforeseen Results of Our Purchase of 
Alaska — Its Future 534 



Some Advantages in Not Being in a Hurry — Not a Poor Man's Country 

— Good Advice from a United States Government Expert — A 
Place for Strong Men and Those Who Can Afford to Lose — 
Expenses Which Have to Be Met — The Cost of Cabins and Facili- 
ties for Working Mines — One Thousand Dollars for Sluice Boxes 

— The Advantage of Having Partners — Unv\ise to Take Less 
Than a Year's Outfit — Suicide Cheaper in Lower Latitudes — It 
Takes a Week to Dig a Grave — Times When Every Man Looks 
the Picture of Distress — Sail North Only, in Good Vessels — How 
to Mark Packages — Trunks an Inconvenience — Sugar and Salt as 
Hard as Quartz — Tobacco as Good as Money on the Yukon — As 
to Furs — Shot Guns Better Than Revolvers — Jack Dalton's Rules 
for the Trail — Possibilities of Lo.siug a Toe or a Foot, . 548 






Boyhood on a Vermont Farm — Scanty Rewards of Toil — Forgetting 
the Cows —My Father Has Ambitions for Me — I Am Sent to School 
but Am Negligent in Study — The Mystery of Inheritance — Book 
Knowledge — I Choose a Business Career in the City — Behind a 
Counter in a Dry-goods Store — My Unhappy Lot — Sighing for 
the Great West — Temptation to Break Away — It Finally Over- 
comes Me — News of Wonderful Finds of Gold — I Take My Little 
Belongings and Arrive in Chicago — Life as a Brakeman — Falling 
in with Gold Miners — Something about Nuggets — A Tramp's 
Luck — The Creede Rush — Cripple Creek — Two Irish Boys and 
Their Mountain Patch — Meeting Joe— Alaska for the Gold-Seeker. 

THIS is the plain story of one wlio began life in a little 
township of Vermont about thirty-two years ago, 
and who, several times during the past two years, 
has been dangerously near losing it in a search for gold 
along the glacier-bound coasts of Alaska, in the frozen 
regions of the Yukon, and in the rich gulches of the Klon- 

It is of the observations, adventures, and experiences of 

the last two years that this story is written. That of the 

first thirty may be briefly told, for it is commonplace — 

the story of a country boy upon whose future career his 

'3 (33) 


struggling parents built great expectations only to be cruelly 
disappointed. That is usual enougli, for parental fondness 
ahvays indulges extravagant hopes in a youth whose own 
more moderate expectations are seldom realized, even after 
his hardest struggles. If at last there comes a time when, 
in some measure, their fond anticipations are realized, they 
may be sleeping in their narrow graves. My parents were 
industrious and poor, a combination of circumstances of 
which life affords many instances, especially upon remote 
and somewhat stubborn New England farms. A boy grow- 
ing up in such surroundings could not fail to be impressed 
with the scanty rewards of the most unremitting toil. 

But any boy finds sources of delight in his surroundings, 
be they never so poor and unpromising, and, though early 
enlisted in some of the necessary work of the farm, such as 
replenishing the wood-pile and churning the cream, my 
inclinations were always to wander in the woods or over the 
meadows, chasing the squirrels, or endeavoring to drive 
the woodchucks from their holes; so that many times when 
sent off on the mountainside after the cows, I often entirely 
forgot my errand in the pursuit of some chance game or 
childish fancy. The admonitions of my father on such oc- 
casions never seemed to do any good. Seldom was I able 
to enter with persistence and interest iiito any useful piece 
of work. 

But for one thing, however, I should probably have re- 
mained there on the farm like so many others, who, not 
having looked beyond their own narrow horizons, settle 
down to think their little world is like all the rest. Though 
very poor, my father entertained high ambitions for me, 
and he determined, at whatever sacrifice, to provide me with 
an education. He never ceased to regret what he himself 


lacked in this respect, and fondly hoped that, if I were 
blessed with a little learning, I would fill a place in the 
world of which he would be proud, and that his declining 
years would be years of happiness and contentment. 

So at the age of fifteen I was sent away to an academy 
in Massachusetts, and immediately my ideas began to 
undergo a marvelous change. I became possessed by a de- 
sire to break away from the limitations of a routine life and 
rush into the great world of which I thought I saw a 
glimpse. But I had no definite purpose. I had not the 
least idea of what I should do if I entered the world which 
my imagination so brilliantly pictured. My disposition re- 
mained the same. It was simply let loose in a wider field, 
like an unbroken mustang. Anytliiug like hard study was 
out of my line, and I seldom engaged in it. I would sit for 
hours and hear the city boys tell stories, would read tales of 
wonderful adventure, forgetting entirely to go to bed. 
Little by little my taste in reading improved, and I wan- 
dered about aimlessly in the fields of literature, not neglect- 
ing the great masters. But I never studied the lessons 
staked out by the teachers like so many narrow garden plats, 
I knew that my low marks were a se^'ere trial to my parents, 
and it was painful to me, when I came to think of it and 
realize what a sacrifice they were making in my behalf. At 
times I would resolve to do better, and would try to study 
hard, but it was no use. My mind (quickly fled away into 
more congenial fields. 

It seems to me that it is unkind to hold a man too rigidly 
responsible for the mixture he finds in his nature. We are 
largely controlled by inherent qualities of which it is dif- 
ficult to rid ourselves. These innate characteristics make 
us what we are, and I suppose that is why we are oblivious 

36 A father's ambition thwarted 

to our own faults. I know now that my dis])osition has 
always been that of a wanderer, though I cannot under- 
stand why I .>!;hould have inherited &ueh a nature from ray 
parents. Possibly it may be explained upon the principle 
that the chemical union of substances results in combina- 
tions surprisingly different from the originals. It may be 
that a person can inherit a nature widely different from that 
of either parent, and still be the natural coml)ination of their 

[Notwithstanding my neglect of prescribed studies, I 
managed somehow to squeeze through the curriculum, and 
I was declared to be fitted for college, but really I was fit for 
nothing which had any definite aim in it. I had extracted 
from the books I had so diligently read a certain amount of 
information which, for the right ])erson, would doubtless 
have been more useful than all that the hardest students had 
extracted from their text-books and teachers, but it was ap- 
parently of little use to me. ]\Iy fi'lher had hoped that I 
would develop a determination to enter the ministry. He 
sat in his pew every Sunday, looked up to the minister and 
imagined me in the pulpit, eloquently holding forth upon 
decrees and judgments, while the people hung breathlessly 
upon my words. But I had no more taste for theology than 
for politics, which I entirely ignored. Prom my reading 
I had formed the opinion that a wise Providence would con- 
trol the world in its own way, without regard to systems of 
theology, and that our civil government would somehow 
" run itself," no matter which party was in power. I was 
quite willing to let others expound theology, or struggle for 
political prizes. My nature was different, and my purpose, 
or lack of it, might be summed up, as nearly as it could be 
summed up at all, in the words " aimless adventure." 


So I adroitly begged off from going to college, explain- 
ing to my father that, even if I had any inclination in that 
direction, I knew tliat he conld not afford it, and that it 
would be better for me to go into business. I had no ambi- 
tion in that direction either, but I had the unpleasant real- 
ization that I must do something for a living. 

Thus it happened that at twenty-two I was behind a 
counter in a big dry-goods store in Boston. It took very 
little time for me to discover that there was no romance in 
the life of a dry^goods clerk. The lequirements were alto- 
gether too definite to suit my nature. All my inclinations 
were to drift about, to find adventure, to see life in its 
various phases, and there I was day after day for long hours 
in a crowded corner of a great store, answering myriads of 
questions, some of which I thought the women who asked 
them knew better how to answer than I, and calling for a 
cash boy who loitered until my customers had become im- 
patient and upbraided me. Variety, there was none. I 
made my board, and a little more, because I paid very little 
for my board and received accordingly. 

My Sunday respites brought me little consolation, for 
though they afforded me temporary delight in wandering 
off into the country, they only served to sharpen my appetite 
for greater freedom. I used to v/ish that a war would 
break out so that I could enlist and give my nature vent in 
an atmosphere of gunpowder. Often I thought of joining 
the recruits to the regular army, bnt upon investigation I 
concluded that there was little for a soldier to do except to 
waste his time in a dull routine. 

To a spirit like mine the possibilities of the great West 
naturally appealed. I had very little idea what any part 
of it was like, and that is i^-^ubtless one of the reasons why I 


longed to see it for myself. It made no particular diiference 
to what part of it I went, nor was it essential that I should go 
for any wcll-dctined ])ni'pos('. That would take care of 
itself; indeed, I disliked to be hampered by certainties. I 
knew I was not in my right place. Yf hat business had I, a 
big six-footer, built on Vermont lines, broad, muscular, and 
tough, dallying behind a dry -goods counter! stuck up in a 
corner like a house plant when I sighed for the free open air, 
the winds, and the storm. 

I clung resignedly to my unpleasant work, however, 
saving all I could at many a bitt-er sacrifice of my inclina- 
tions, for I had sufficient wisdom to realize the risks of rush- 
ing empty-handed into regions of vv^hich I knew little, and 
where no one knew me. I was sick and discouraged at 
times over the monotonous routine of my daily duties. 

In such papers as I allowed mvself to buy I always read 
wnth great interest and care every scrap of information or 
news about the Great West, and like many others, even with 
a disposition less restless than mine, I Tvas deeply impressed 
wdth the stories of rich strikes in the mining regions and the 
fortunes made in what seemed an incredibly short time. I 
began to read all I could lay my hands on relating to mines 
and mining, and to study, with a zeal which I had never 
shown before, the science of that great industry ; thus acquir- 
ing a store of information that would be very valuable if 
ever a time should come when it could be Ijrought into con- 
nection with practical experience, but worth little without it. 

In the spring of 1880 came the stories of the ex- 
citement caused along the Pacific coast by the discoveries 
in Lower California. During IMarch an average of six hun- 
dred men a day rushed to the mines in the Santa Clara dis- 
trict, about one hundred and twenty miles south of San 


Diego. One of tlie first workers, so the stories ran, washed 
out fonr thousand dollars' worth of gold in four hours, and a 
Mexican digger took out one thousand five hundred dollars 
in two days in a space eight feet square. 

As I read these and similar tales, the temptation became 
too great for me to resist. I had as yet saved only a small 
amount of money, but I had enough to take me a part of the 
way, and then, I thought, I might secure employment 
further west, and a little nearer the region of the Pacific 
Coast. So, after one of my hardest, most exasperating days 
behind the counter, I resigned my position, and for the first 
time in many months walked to my boarding place with a 
light heart. After i-eceiving what was due me at the store, 
and buying a ticket for Chicago, I packed my small belong- 
ings in a valise, and with my accumulated capital, about 
thirty dollars, in my pocket, westward I took my unde- 
termined way. 

Considerable time was lost in an unsuccessful search for 
employment at Chicago, and gradually my small capital 
became greatly reduced. I avoided the dry-goods stores 
and of course knew little about any other line of business. 
My eyes were still turned westward, and quite naturally I 
haunted the railway depots and offices until destitution 
finally compelled me to engage as a brakeman on a freight 
train on one of the leading lines ninning West from 
Chicago. It was a hard life, and yet I enjoyed some 
features of it. Even my imagination had not portrayed the 
Great "West as I found it, with its broad stretches of prairie, 
its busy cities and towns, its teeming harvests, and thrifty 

Gradually I worked my way westward, constantly shift- 
ing from one division of the railroad to another, each tend- 


ing still farther west than the last, till one evening 1 fonnd 
myself in Colorado Springs. Seeking out a moderate- 
priced hotel, I entered and found myself in an eating-room 
where a number of men were drinking and smoking, most 
of them engaged in earnest conversation. Seating myself 
at a ^'acant table, I ordered as good a meal as I thought was 
warranted by my rather scanty funds. 

" Yes, thar's some mighty big stories 'bout fellers as 
struck it rich," I heard the old man who sat at the next table 
say to his companions, who were all considerably younger, 
" but I'm only tellin' what I've seen to be true. One day, 
when I was in Shasta county, 'bout fifteen years back, three 
fellers that looked like Frenchmen druv into town, and 
droppin' into a hardware store to get somethin' or other, 
asked the proprietor whar was a likely place to mine. They 
looked tenderfoot like, and I guess they was. The pro- 
prietor kinder careless like, ye know, p'int-ed north, and 
said ' Go over to Spring Creek.' Wal, sir, they went, and 
after prospecting around they located a claim a little ways 
up the stream, an' in a few days one o' them durn'd French- 
men picked up a nugget wutli over six thousand. 

" You don't find secli nuggets as them in these days," 
chimed in one of the younger men as he took out a roll of 
bills and beckoned to the waiter. He had a swaggering 
manner, and it was easy to see that the others regarded him 
with a degree of deference. 

" How big d' ye say yourn w^as, Sandy? '^ asked the old 

" Only fort,y-eight ounces, but it was enough, so I sold 
the claim for big money to the Denver parties." 

" Wal, ye say, Sandy," resumed the old man, " that big 
strikes ain't made tliese days, but it ain't so long ago when 


I was clown on the Gila that I heard of a lucky find a little 
way ofi^ the Southern Pacific in Californy, Two fellers 
tranipin' up the coast got put off a freight train at Calliente, 
and they started to hoof it to Bakersville. In two days, 
back they came to Calliente with a lump of gold and quartz. 
The boys thought they might have robbed a camp, and 
p'raps killed the miner to get it. But they told how they 
was goin' 'bout in the dry bed of an old stream not far from 
the Bealeville placer camp, in search of wood for a fire, and 
stumbled on the gold. They had ofi'ered to sell it to a rail- 
road man before they came back to Calliente, but he sus- 
pected the strangers, and wouldn't bargain. Wal, sir, that 
lump was sold afterwards in Los Angeles for two thousand 
seven hundred and fifty dollars. It weighed 116 ounces. 
The boys rushed into that old stream but they never found 
any more big nuggets." 

I forgot my supper, hungry as I was. The effect of 
such conversation upon a tenderfoot with but a little silver 
in his pocket, and who was impatient to send comforting 
news to his far-away home in Vermont, may be imagined. 
'^ Houghing it," and "striking it rich," was just my ideal 
then. I had tried roughing it somewhat, and all I needed 
was to strike it rich. 

" Excuse me, gentlemen," I said, slowly turning my 
chair, and somewhat nervously facing the group, " but I am 
down this way to ^ee what I can do in a mining country, 
and I am interested in your talk. Is there any chance any- 
where around here for a fellow like me to strike in? " 

They looked at me critically for a moment, and the 
young fellow who seemed to be spending tliQ^money, said: 
" Stranger, you look all right, and I guess you are. Say, 
stranger, where you from? " 


I told tliem that 1 caiiic from jSTew England, and tlicy 
glanced at my clothes, which,' notwithstanding the rough 
wear of the ]iast few weeks, were not at all bad. At this 
the man whom they called " Sandy " informed me that he 
had just sold one of his claims, but he had another that could 
be bought for fair money, and his companions also began to 
expatiate upon the value of claims they would dispose of. 
I had to confess, sorely against my inclination, that my 
capital did not permit me to buy claims, but I would like to 
get work in a mining region, and trust to my luck. 

It seems that Sandy had recently come in from the wild 
regions about Willow Creek, and a rush was then just begin- 
ning toward the place where Creede made his discovery. I 
listened eagerly to the stories of fabulous fortunes and sud- 
den wealth narrated by these prospectors. To my over- 
wrought imagination it seemed easy to become rich Where 
gold was so abundant. The result was that the next day I 
started with a party of a dozen others on my first rush to 
gold fields. Thus it was that I began to supplement my 
store of book information about mining with the details of 
practical experience. These details were not unlike those 
of others in the mining districts of the Rockies, and the 
stor}^ has often been told. I worked in the mines till I 
secured a good understanding of mining as it was there con- 
ducted. I was grub-staked and spent much of my time 
wandering over the mountains, along creeks and streams, 
and through gulches. It was on the whole an agreeable 
life, but I failed to make a strike. That is also a story 
which has often been told. 

I^ot long afterwards came the rush to C^ripple Creek, 
where a cowboy had found in Poverty Gulch ore which, 
when taken to Colorado Springs, was found to yield two 


luuidred and forty dollars to tlie ton. Those going in early 
found ore of even higher value. After the Buena Vista 
mine was sold, the attention of the entire country was at- 
tracted to Cripple Creek, and the great rush to that now 
famous district began. They poured in over the mountaiu 
tops and through the gulches, and claims were staked in all 
directions, regardless of the character of the rock. Many 
hardships were endured in the early days of the opening of 
this district, but a rough life proved not at all distaste- 
ful to me, though I met with no marked success. Still, 
there was always the chance, and, in some notable cases, 
men, after prospecting and suffering many hardslii]3s with- 
out success, had, when on the point of packing their traps 
and returning to their former employments, stumbled upon 
ore that made them rich within a few months. 

One of the notable discoveries coming some little time 
after the rush was that of the Portland mine. Two Irish 
boys from Portland, ]\[e., owned a small patch of poor land 
which they did not know exactly what to do with. One 
day a miner of some experience came along and asked what 
they would give if he found pay-rock for them. They 
offered a third. The miner found it that afternoon, and in 
time that third interest became worth millions. 

I kept on prospecting, always buoyed up by the hope of 
making a great discovery that would eclipse all others and 
yield me a princely fortune. 

In the fall of 1S05 I fell in with another prospector 
about my age, named Joseph Meeker. There was a certain 
compatibility in our dispositions and tastes, and we soon 
became fast friends. Joe had originally come from I^orth 
Carolina, but he had spent a year in Alaska, and had been 
mining for several years in Colorado, but with no better sue- 


cess than had attended my efPorts. lie never grew tired of 
talking ahont ALaska. It had a strange fascination for him, 
and he would return to the subject again and again. We 
were sitting close to the fire in the cabin one night when Joe 
suddenly inquired how much money I had. 

" I've saved about eight hundred dollars," I replied, 
wonderingly. "Why?" 

" I've got 'bout seven hundred dollars," he said, " and 
I'll tell you why I ask. You are strong and hearty. You 
ought to stand it, and I know I can. The only place to 
hunt for gold now is in Alaska. I was up there two years 
ago, worked in the Tread well mills awhile, and in the sum- 
mer crossed over to the upper Yukon. There's gold there 
in river banks, but the ground's frozen twenty feet deep, 
and the climate is beastly in the winter. I got caught on 
the Yukon late in the fall, and had a hard time getting back. 
I didn't have any outfit, and when I came out I was as near 
dead as I could be. But I believe that's the place for us, 
and if we put our money together it will be enough to buy 
a good outfit and pay our way to Alaska, and next spring we 
can go in all right. How does it strike you? " 

The proposition startled me. Alaska was a long way 
off, and it was comparatively an unknown country. I was 
already far from home and kindred. Besides I was not so 
sanguine of success as my companion appeared to be, and 
mining in a country where the ground was " frozen twenty 
feet deep " did not at first impress me as a particularly at- 
tractive scheme. I hesitated, but only for a few moments; 
for, impelled by my restless and unsatisfied love of adven- 
ture, and the alluring possibilities in a new land from 
whence rumors of gold had already come, I said, " I'll go." 



My Meager Ideas of the Territory — Joe Draws on His Store of Infor- 
mation — Vast Extent of the Country — Dull and Dirty Natives — 
A Race of Shirks — Habits of the Dogs — Navigation of the Yukon 

— Mo.s(iuitoes That "Kill Bears" — Story of the Miners' Search 
for Gold on the Yukon — A Pioneer Prospecting Party — Some of 
the Early Finds — Gold Every vphere — The Klondike Moose Past- 
ure — Despised by the Gold-Seekers — Coarse Gold on Forty-Mile 
Creek— The Rise of the Town — Sixty Mile — Miller and Glacier 
Creeks — A Missionary Picks up a Nugget — Founding of 
Circle City — My Partner Becomes Impatient — Making Our Plans 

— We Proceed to San Francisco — Buying an Outfit — What It 
Consisted of — Our Medicine Chest — Over a Ton and a Half to 
Carry — A Peep into the Future — Ominous Suggestions. 

ALASKA was about the only country of the world into 
which my venturesome imagination had not taken 
me. I knew that the United States bought it of 
Russia in 1867 for less than half a cent an acre, but I had 
never figured from the total purchase price how many acres 
it made. It was something of a revelation to me, there- 
fore, when Joe, who was an exceedingly well-informed man 
in many ways, and particularly upon Alaska, convinced me 
that this territory was nine times the size of T^ew England, 
twice the size of Texas, and three times that of California; 
that it had a coast line of over eighteen thousand miles, 



greater tlian that of all the rest of the United States, and 
that, measuring from the most eastern point of Maine to 
the most western point of the Aleutian Ishuids, wliieh ex- 
tend over into the eastern hemisphere, the half-way point 
of the United States would be a little west of San Francisco. 
Joe had a fund of general information concerning the 
country. T\Tiile I had been dreaming vaguely of the Great 
AVest, he had been looking with quiet detennination to- 
wards that land from which he had w'itli so much difficulty 
only recently escaped, and in spite of that severe experience 
he had been working hard to save money enough to enable 
him to return and prospect mth safety on the Yukon. 
While it was generally known that the first lease of two 
tiny islands retiu'ued to the United States Treasury a sum 
equal to the purchase money, and that the salmon industry 
had yielded a like sum for the fii^t six yeai^s of its establish- 
ment, the outside world had as yet heard very little about 
its gold resources. Summer pleasure-seekei-s had turned 
back at the Muir Glacier, which is over a thousand miles 
south of Point Barrow, and had rarely ventured as far as 
the Aleutian Islands, which stretch to a point two thousand 
miles west of Sitka. A few explorers had wandered over 
some of the rough Indian trails, and Ijad nearly lost their 
lives in climbing the snow-capped mountain peaks. For 
several years poorly maintained trading posts had been col- 
lecting furs from the Indians, and here and there over the 
vast region were mission stations which had produced little 
effect on the dull and dirty natives. Dogs and Indians 
were the beasts of burden, the dogs being far superior, for. 
though bom thieves, they would work under the lash ; but 
the Indians were lazy, and, after exacting the most extrava- 
gant prices for packing over the trails, were quite likely 


to throw down their packs and return home, leaving the 
explorer helpless in the desolate regions. As all contracts 
with these Indians included their keeping, and as no one had 
had ever discovered a limit to their appetites when others 
provided the food, the poor explorer usually found that the 
Indian packers would cat up all they could carry before go- 
ing far into the interior. At home they would live frugally 
on nothing but fish, some of it very ancient, for most of 
them were too lazy to catch any till driven to it by gnawing 
hunger. When carrying a pack for a white man they were 
rarely able to lift an ounce till they had eaten two or three 
pounds. Then they would trot along with a pack that no 
white man could stagger under. 

What means of navigation existed on the Yukon were 
exceedingly primitive. Running two thousand miles 
across Alaska and into the Northwest Territory, into which 
the head tributaries stretched five hundred miles further, 
navigation could hardly be attempted before July, and 
towards the last of September the river generally began to 
freeze. The quickest way to reach the headwaters of the 
Yukon was overland from the coast, but one could do little 
more than take his life in his hands, to say nothing of pro- 
visions, if he ventured from the trails, which were full of 
dangers, while in the summer the mosquitoes, Joe em- 
phatically said, had been known to " kill bears." In five 
months the country receives as much sunshine, or rather 
daylight, as California receives in eight, and in seven 
months as much night as California receives in nearly a year 
and a half. 

" But there's gold there," said Joe. " And T know it." 

It was the erold that he was thinking of, and though I 

was not unmindful of it either, I could not help but weave 


fanciful pictures of life in a little-known country reputed 
to be full of dangers, and hence attractive to one of my dis- 
position. To me it was a pleasant picture to contemplate. 
I knew nothing about the reality. What little was known 
of the mineral possibilities of the country in the fall of 1895 
was fairly well known by my partner, who had industri- 
ously sought information from every possible source. 

It is a curious fact, though an experienced miner will 
not recognize it as such, that the Yukon and the streams 
which tlow into it have been prospected for years. The 
reader must not suppose that all one has to do is to come to 
the right spot to find gold staring him in the face. Expe- 
rienced prospectors traveled many times over some of the 
richest rocks in Colorado l>efore their treasures were discov- 
ered, and the conditions along the frozen banks of the Yukon 
are even more misleading, as will be seen later. But 
as early as thirty years ago, even before the seventies, gold 
w^as known to exist in the beds of the streams which empty 
into the Yukon. Only a few prospectors ventured into 
these forbidding regions and they found small returns for 
their hardships and drudgery. It appears that the first real 
prospecting was done by George Holt, who crossed either the 
Chilkoot or the White Pass in 1878 and found coarse gold in 
the Hootalinkwa river. In 1880 a party of twenty-five, 
headed by Edward Bean, found bars yielding $2.50 a day on 
a small tributary of the Lewis. In subsequent years gold 
was found on the Big Salmon, Pelly, Hootalinkwa, Lewis, 
and Stewart rivers. When Lieutenant Schwatka made his 
trip down the Yukon in 1883 he made the acquaintance of 
Joseph Ladue, wdio was years after to become famous as 
the founder of Dawson. Ladue was digging about persist- 
ently, but he found little in the holes which he sunk with 


the greatest difficulty. Scliwatka also heard of others who 
had been prospecting many seasons with poor results. Still 
there were traces of gold almost everywhere, and a miner 
knows that where there are traces of the precious metal 
a source of supply must exist somewhere. 

Early in the seventies there were miners working at the 
headwaters of the Pelly River, near the Cassiar Mountains, 
and, as will be seen by the map, near where some of the 
feeders of the Pelly and the Mackenzie approach each 
other. Some of them had learned of tlie existence of a 
large lake beyond the Cassiar and made an effort to reach 
it, but failed and returned disgusted. In 1872, two Irish- 
men named Harper and Hart ; Fitch, a Canadian ; Kanselar, 
a German; and Wilkinson, an Englishman, believing that 
gold existed on the Mackenzie because it had been found 
in some quantities on some of the principal streams, started 
on a prospecting trip. At Laird River they fell in with 
two men named ]\[cQuesten and Mayo, who were also pros- 
pecting. Wilkinson determined to try his luck there, but 
the others continued, and finally by way of Bell's River and 
the Porcupine came to Fort Yukon, an old supply point 
at the junction of the Porcupine and Yukon and close to 
the Arctic Circle. There they found an Indian who had 
some native copper which he said had come from White 
River, 400 miles up the Yukon. 

They determined to work their way up there, and did 
eventually, but were stopped near the White River in Sep- 
tember by ioe. They built a cabin and during the winter 
prospected for the copper, but found none. By spring 
their provisions had run out and they started down the river 
again, prospecting as they went. They found indications 
of gold near the mouth of Stewart River, but could take 


no advantage of this till thev had obtained provisions. 
They had to make their way nearly 2,000 miles to St. Mi- 
chael, near the mouth of the Yukon, and on their way back 
met McQuestin and Mayo, Avho had meanwhile gone into 
the service of the Alaska Commercial Company. 

When about -iOO miles uj) the river and near the mouth 
of the Koyukuk they encotmtered an Indian having some 
gold which he said had come from the mountains in that 
vicinity. So they spent two years prospecting in that re- 
gion, but with no results. Meantime, McQuestin and Mayo 
had gone up the Yukon and established Fort Reliance, six 
and a half miles from the stream which is now known as the 
Klondike. Harj^er and his companion joined them a little 
later and formed a trading partnership. The region near 
this stream was kno^\m only as a fishing and hunting ground, 
and no one thought of prospecting there then, for the beds 
were formed of uninviting dirt and nothing but surface 
prosi>ecting was done. Harper had written concerning 
the traces of gold to some of his old comrades in British 
Columbia, where he had mined for years, and some of them 
made their way to the new diggings. Early in the eighties 
gold was found in the StCAvart River, and it was about this 
time that rich quartz fields were discovered in the vicinity 
of Juneau, on the coast, and the attention of the outside 
world was mainly directed towards them. In 1886 Har- 
per erected a trading post at the mouth of the Stewart fnr 
the benefit of the thirty or more minei*s who had been in- 
duced to go into these regions, but in the same year coarse 
gold was fotmd on Forty ]\rile Creek. Coarse gold is the 
miner's delight, and as soon as the discovery became known, 
the St-ewart River diggings, the product of which in 1885 
and 1886 was estimated at $300,000, were deserted for 


Forty Mile Creek, and Harper moved his trading post to 
that point; this was the beginning of the settlement of that 
name. The same year the Klondike stream, which then 
appeared on the maps as Deer Eiver, was prospected for 
several miles, but no gold was found. On the other hand, 
gold was found nearly the whole length of Forty Mile 
River and in all its gulches. The news of this discovery 
was brought out by Tom Williams, who died at Dyea from 
the effects of cold and exhaustion endured in crossing the 
Chilkoot pass. Flis information caused several hundred 
men to go to Forty Mile from the Pacific Coast. 

The only mining done on the Stewart was on the bars 
of the river. The bench and bank bars were all timbered 
and frozen so that to work them it was thought would en- 
tail a resort to hydraulic mining, for which there was no ma- 
chinery in the country. During the fall of 1886 three or 
four miners combined and got the owners of one of the 
little river steamboats to allow the use of her engines to 
work pumps for sluicing with. The boat was hauled up 
on the bar, her engines detached from the wheels and made 
to drive pumps manufactured on the ground, thus supply- 
ing water for a set of sluice boxes. With this crude ma- 
chinery the miners cleared $1,000 in less than a month, and 
paid an equal sum to the o^vners of the boat as their share. 

But scarcely anything was heard of these discoveries 
by the outside world, though the Canadian agent reported 
them to his government. Few miners were there, the sea- 
son for work was short, and the little gold which came down 
attracted no attention, while many rich mines were being 
discovered in Colorado and California. 

Not long after the discovery of gold in Forty Mile 
Creek a few miners crossed the narrow divide which sep- 


arates the licadwaters of Forty ]\lile from those of Sixty 
Mile and discovered gold on Miller and Glacier creeks. 
The former had already been prospected three different 
times and given up as worthless, but it turned out to be the 
richest creek in the region and enjoyed that reputation for 
yeai's. In 1891 gold was found on the headwaters of Birch 
Ci-^ek, which flows into the Yukon a.bout forty miles below 
Fort Yukon. According to the story which came down 
the coast, this discovery was due to Archdeacon ]\[acdonald, 
a Canadian missionary on the Peel River, who in connection 
%nth his missionary labors traveled over much of the 
country. In coming from the Tanana River he picked up 
a nugget in one of the gulches of Birch Creek. He told 
some of the miners and a party made a search. While they 
failed to find the place answering the missionary's descrip- 
tion they found gold. This Avas the beginning of Circle 
City, on the banks of the Yukon, about 200 miles below 
Forty Mile and only a few miles by portage from Birch 
Creek. During 1893 the Klondike stream was again pros- 
pected, but nothing was found. But Circle City attracted 
to it many of the old miners who had had poor success on 
other creeks and most of the newcomers. These, however, 
were very few until 1894. 

My partner had learned the stoiy of some of these dis- 
coveries while at Juneau and during his unsuccessful ven- 
ture inland. He returned to California in the hopes of 
providing a good outfit, but was obliged to prospect and 
work in the mines, trusting to luck to raise the necessary 
money. Attracted by the stories which came down, several 
hardy miners from California went up to the Yukon regions 
in 1894, but Joe remained behind and worked hard to se- 
cure the means which he had learned by observation and 


experience were required to prospect in such a wild country. 
].ate in the summer of 1895, a lot of gold came down to San 
Francisco from the mouth of the Yukon, and for the first 
time Alaska began to attract a lively attention in the min- 
ing camps of the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific 
Coast. Joe was greatly excited but knew it was too late 
that year to venture safely into the new El Dorado. When 
we became fast friends he saw the advantages of forming 
a partnership with me in the enterprise. 

It was then November, and we wished to be ready to 
start by the first of March. He said it would be no use for 
us to try to start earlier, for owing to the difficulties of travel 
before the Yukon broke up no time would be gained, while 
a good deal of needless hardship would be incurred. It 
was fortunate for me that I had a companion who knew 
something of the route and what to expect. It would have 
1icen just like me to start in with little thought of pro- 
visions and with an inadequate outfit of clothing and sup- 
jilies. AVe worked along till the end of the year making 
our plans, and early in January we bade good-bye to Colo- 
rado and started for San Francisco to secure our outfit and 

I have seen many statements of the outfit a man needs 
in going into the Alaska mining regions, but I have never 
seen one that enumerated all tlie things which a man wants 
after he is there. It must be borne in mind that he is going 
to a place which is practically cut off from the outside 
world for the greater ]>art of the year and which is very 
little better, as far as supplies are concerned, at any time. 
All this may be remedied some time, but I was going in 
before the attention of the commercial world had been 
greatly attracted to the region. While one with money 



enough in his pocket can travel all over the United States 
and want for nothing, when he crosses the mountain passes 
or goes up the Yukon to the interior of Alaska he needs to 
have with him all that he is likely to want for a year. He 
may want it very badly and in vain, and still have any 
amount of gold in his pockets. 

We secured a cheap boarding place near the wharves 
in San Francisco and soon set to work to collect such articles 
as Joe's experience and the best information we could ob- 
tain from every possible source convinced us would be 
necessary. After taking out of our capital what was 
needed for passage, living expenses till March, and quite 
a sum for expenses on the way, we concluded we 
might with the remainder purchase enough clothing 
and pi"ovisions for a year, or more, besides the necessary 

I have a list of some of the things we purchased and 
others I have sup]ilied from memory. The following is 
about what we took in the way of ]irovisions: 


800 lbs. 

Bacon, .... 

300 lbs 

Corn Meal, 

50 " 

Dried Beef, 

60 " 

Rolled Oats, . 

80 " 

Dry Salt Pork, 

50 " 

Pilot Bread, . 

50 " 

Roast Coffee, . 

50 " 

Baking Powder, 

20 " 

Tea, . . ' . 

25 " 

Yeast Cakes, . 

6 " 

Condensed Milk, 

50 " 

Baking Soda, . 

6 " 

Butter, hermetically sealed 

40 " 


100 " 


40 " 


200 " 

Ground Pepper, 

3 " 

Split Peas, 

50 " 

Ground ]\Iustard, . 

2 " 

Evaporated Potatoes, 

50 " 

Ginger, .... 

2 " 

Evaporated Onions, 

.20 " 

Jamaica Ginger, 

3 " 

Beef Extract, . 

3 " 

Evaporated Vinegar, 

12 " 

Evaporated Apples, 

50 " 


25 " 

Evaporated Peaches, 

50 " 

Candles, 2 boxes contaiuin 


Evaporated Apricots, 

50 " 

240 candles, 

80 " 



Dried Raisins, . 

. 20 lbs. 

Laundry Soap, 

. 15 lbs. 

Dried Figs, 

. 20 " 

Tar Soap, 

. 5 " 

Granulated Sugar, . 

. 150 " 

Tobacco, . 

. 30 " 

In the hardware line our outfit was of a more miscel- 
laneous character and as complete as we knew how to make 
it, and everything came in handy. We purchased as fol- 
lows : 

1 Hand Saw. 

2 Hatchets. 

2 Shovels. 

1 Whip Saw. 

30 pounds of Nails (assorted sizes). 

2 Scissors. 

-^ dozen assorted Files. 

Fish Lines and Hooks. 

2 Handled Axes. 

1 Gold Scale. 

2 Draw Knives. 

1 Chalk Line. 

1 Jack Plane. 

I'Measuring Tape. 

1 Brace and 4 Bits. 

2 Money Belts. 

3 Chisels, assorted. 

2 Cartridge Belts. 

2 Butcher Knives. 

2 Gold Dust Bags (buckskin) 

2 Hunting Knives. 

2 Pairs Snow Glasses. 

2 Pocket Knives. 

6 Towels. 

2 Compasses. 

1 Caulking Iron. 

1 Set Awls and Tools. 

Knives and Forks. 

150 feet of |-inch Rope. 

Table and Teaspoons. 

1 Medicine Case. 

2 Large Spoons. 

15 pounds of Pitch. 

2 Bread Pans. 

20 pounds of Oakum. 

Granite Cups. 

Pack Straps. 

Granite Plates. 

2 Gold Pans. 

2 Coffee Pots. 

4 Galvanized Pails. 

2 Frying Pans. 

1 Whetstone. 

1 Stove (Yukon). 

2 Picks and Handles. 

4 Granite Buckets. 

2 Prospector's Picks. 

1 Camp Kettle. 

2 Grub Bags. 

I have no exact record of the wearing apparel that 
formed an important part of our outfit, but it was ample. 
There is nothing in the following list which will not come 
in very handy if a man intends to move around in the rain 



storms of summer and iu the frigid weatlier of an Alaskan 

3 Suits Underwear, extra heavy. 
2 Extra heavy double-breasted 

Flanuel Overshirts. 
1 Extra heavy Mackinaw Over- 

1 Extra heavy all-wool double 

6 Pairs long German knit Socks. 

2 Pairs Gerinan knit and shrunk 

Stockings, leather heels. 
1 Mackinaw Coat, extra heavy. 
1 Pair Mackinaw Pants. 

4 Pairs All- Wool Mittens. 

2 Pairs Leopard Seal Waterproof 

1 Pair Hip iJoots. [JMitteus. 

2 Pairs Rubber Shoes. 
2 Pairs Overalls. 

1 Waterproof, Blanket-Lined Coat. 

2 Pairs Blankets. 
1 Fur Cap. 

1 Wool Scarf. 
1 Pair Leather Suspenders. 
1 Extra Heavy Packing Bag. 
1 Suit Oil Clothing and Hat. 
1 Doz. Bandana Handkerchiefs. 
1 Canvas Sleeping Bag. 

Any woman who thinks of going to Alaska can read 
this list intended for a man and govern the selection of her 
garments accordingly. 

Onr outfit, which altogether we estimated would weigh 
about 3,200 pounds, embraced other little odds and ends, 
personal effects, and so on. We each had a rifle, and we 
also provided ourselves with revolvers. We haunted gTO- 
cery stores and clothing houses for over a week, and as our 
purchases were delivered I began to get a dim realization 
of what Joe was preparing for. Still I was often surprised 
at the wholesale manner in which he bought. One day 
he bought a medicine chest, wdiieh looked like a miniature 
drug store. Tt had been recommended to him by a phy- 
sician. It took up a lot of room and it was about the only 
thing that we did not use in our subsequent wanderings. 
The trouble was that we did not know how to use it. Some 
of the remedies might have been for blisters or cramps or 
any other human ailment so far as we knew. We managed 


to sort out a few remedies with whicli we had some famil- 
iarity. We found tliat a few stock remedies, such as most 
]5ersons are accustomed to use, are about all that it is worth 
while to carry over the mountain trails and long voyages 
by water. In winter a hot drink of tea did us more good 
than anything else, and in summer a few quinine pills were 
taken as bon-bons. 

" Over a ton and a half," I said when the collection was 

" You will think it weighs five times that before you get 
it on the Yukon," remarked Joe. " But it's a mighty good 
outfit, and I hope we shall get it there all right." 

Joe was sometimes vague as to the details of some of the 
difficulties for which he was so carefully providing; and 
though a faint suspicion would now and then arise in my 
mind when he confined himself to general statements in 
answer to some of my questions, I quieted my misgivings. 
I think even he had no clear conception of the magnitude of 
some of the dangei's and hardships we were destined to en- 
counter. " It'll be the roughest roughing it you ever saw," 
he would say. '' But you've got grit, and that's more than 



Departure from San Francisco — Port Townsend — Through Puget 
Sound — Points of Interest and Beauty — A Gap in the Island Belt 
— Few Moments of Seasickness — The Great Scenic Region — In 
Alaskan Waters — Tide Water Glaciers — Juneau as a Metropolis — 
A Glimpse of Totem Poles — Indian Traders — The Mines of the 
Vicinity and their Discovery — Famous Treadwell Mills — The 
Largest in the World — The Skagway and Dalton Trails — Pro- 
ceeding to Dyea — Dumped on the Beach — Getting Supplies 
Together and Beyond the Tide — The Problem of Moving Ahead — 
Approached by Indian Packers — Dangers of Bidding up Prices — 
A Contract with the Heathen — Our First Night in Camp — Dark 
Ways of the Chilkoots — We Decide to Do Our Own Packing. 

AT the time we started for Alaska there were but two 
general routes from the Pacific Coast of the United 
States to the gold, regions of the Yukon. The first 
was by the way of the Yukon River, and that means a jour- 
ney of about four thousand fiye hundred miles, all by w^ater, 
at such times as the sand bars do not obstruct nayigation. 
This yoyage can only be made between the middle of June 
and the first of September, and it usually requires forty 
days to reach Circle City. The other way, which is .shorter 
and quicker, if conditions are favorable, can be undertaken 
much earlier in the year, and is by the way of Juneau, Dyea, 
and the mountain passes to the lakes and upper waters of the 



Yukon. The fare from San Francisco by way of tlie 
Ynkon is about three hundred dollars, and a charge of ten 
cents a pound for freight over the amount allowed for per- 
sonal baggage. From San Francisco to Juneau the fare is 
fifty dollars, and the freight charges amount to but little. 
After reaching Dyea the charges for packing and ferrying 
are extravagant. One can spend as much as he likes. 
There is no limit to what the Chilkoots will try to make out 
of a person disposed to give. 

We were too impatient to get into the country to wait 
for the water route, and I should have dreaded its monotony. 
I looked forward to the overland route with pleasure, 
especially that part of it supposed to impose the obstacles at 
which Joe had so vaguely hinted. 

We sailed out of San Francisco harbor on March 15th. 
We were not the only gold-seekers aboard. Still, we were 
not crowded, and our quarters were comfortable. Port 
Townsend, the " Key City of the Sound," is the port of 
entry for the Puget Sound customs district, and point of 
departure of the mails for Alaska. Here we transferred to 
the Alaska steamer which came from Tacoma and Seattle, 
and fell in with a few more Alaskan adventurers. 

The voyage from Port Townsend, which we left on the 
20th, to Juneau, is one of the most varied and delightful that 
any coast line aifords. I do not believe there is another 
journey on the face of the earth, the first half of which is so 
enjoyable and the second half so dismal, as the journey from 
Port Townsend to the Yukon in a Juneau and the passes. 
For two thousand miles the vessel steams through land- 
locked channels, straits, and passages. The landscape is 
wonderfully beautiful all the way, and the traveler never 
ceases to wonder at its varietv. 


All the upper end uf the Puget Sound is dominated by 
^h. Baker, an extinct volcano over ten thousand feet high. 
We crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, close-walled on the 
southern side by the Olympic range, and touched at Vic- 
toria on the souther]! point of Vancouver Island. AVe 
then skirted the shores of San Juan Island through Active 
Pass, and entered the Gulf of Georgia, which is a great 
inland sea with the snow-capped mountains of Vancouver 
Island continuously on one side, and the Cascade Peaks on 
the other. Rounding Cape Mudge, we entered Discovery 
Passage, which is, at points, less than half a mile wdde. At 
Queen Charlotte Sound there is a forty-mile gap in the 
island belt, and the swell of the outer ocean is felt. Those 
subject to mal de mer disappear for a time, but that is the 
only place in this salt water voyage of two thousand miles 
where any discomfort need be expected. We soon entered 
the narrow way again, steaming through Lama Passage, 
which is beautifully wooded, revealing here and there 
glimpses of the aborigines and their totem poles. Having 
crossed Millbank Sound we entered the great scenic regions 
of the trip. The shores, which are seldom more than two 
miles apart, rise abruptly for over a thousand feet, rugged 
promontories underneath whose shadows limpid mirrors lie; 
while above them rise the snowy ridges, gh'stening with 
glaciere and cascades. 

After passing Fort Simpson we entered Alaskan waters. 
The coasts continued mountainous and the scenery became 
more grand. A little above Fort Wrangel we reached the 
region of tide-water glaciers, whose bergs sparkling along 
the sound, and on every foot of the shore on both sides, is a 
suggestion of the wonders of this mighty land of the north. 
Mountains rear their snow-capped summits far into the sky, 


and, peering throngli the clefts once riven by some great 
shock of natnre, we see other ranges, over-topping ranges, 
frowning darkly or standing with a ghost-like whiteness; 
and, nearer, the mighty glaciers glow in all their varied 
tints. We passed inlets, where 

, . . " the clmnuel's waters spreading 
Turn toward the land, and find it 
So entrancing in its fairness, 
So stupendous in its grandeur ! 
Find its ice-bound coast so willing 
To receive their bright advances, 
That they lie in sheets of silver 
At the foot of lofty ice-peaks." 

On tlie fonrth day out from Port Townsend we steamed 
into Gastineau Channel, and soon arrived at Juneau, the 
metropolis of Alaska. AYe had feasted on the delights of 
the voyage, and the disagreeable portion was to come. 
Xature has a way of evening things up, and though some- 
times the process is so long that we do not realize it, her rigid 
law of compensation is always in force. 

We disembarked at Juneau with our precious supplies. 
It is a queer metropolis, lying at the base of precipitous 
mountains about three thousand feet high, and the flat plain 
between the shore and the base of the mountain seems very 
narroAV, It is now well built up with houses, though it con- 
tained at that time only about two thousand people. Its 
streets are narrow, crooked, and muddy, and here and there 
the tree-stumps remain unpleasantly in the way. It has a 
court house, several hotels and lodging houses, theaters, 
churches, schools, newspapers, a hospital, a fire brigade, and 
a brass band, but more saloons and dance-houses than all the 
other institutions put together. Among its more modern 
improvements are water-works and electric light plants. 


Adjuiiiiiii;' on tlu> I'ast below the wharf is a viUage of 'I'aku 
Indian^;, and on the Hats at the mouth of Gokl Creek is a 
viUage of Auk Indians, back of which we get a glimpse of 
totem poles over the graves of the dead, and hung with offer- 
ings to the departed spirit^s. As we pass along through 
Third and Stewart streets, in the heart of the city, we find 
the Indians squatting about their wares, fish, vegetables, 
berries, and curios, and in the larger stores are fine displays 
of fur's. One can get about everything he needs here, and 
a good deal more, especially in the lines of gambling, drink- 
ing, and dance halls. Such, in brief, is the metropolis of a 
country larger than Germany and Austria-Hungary to- 

Juneau is essentially a mining town, owing its su- 
premacy to the adjacent quartz mines which have much 
more than paid the cost of Alaska, to say nothing of its seals 
and valuable fisheries. Until recently the territory's repu- 
tation as a gold country has been due to these mines. It was 
about twenty yeare ago that a party of Indians brought 
a bit of gold quartz to Sitka, where a merchant grub-staked 
Joseph Juneau and Richard Harris, and sent tliem in search 
of the ore. Although this was the beginning of «Tuneau, 
it was three years later before the place took its name. The 
settlement was first named Harrisburg, but the mining com- 
pany Avhich had named the district the Harris Mining Dis- 
trict gave the name of Juneau to the town. Miners flocked 
to the new" camp, but many came too late to find claims 
there, and crossed over to what is now known as Douglass 
Island, then an untouched wilderness. After they had 
staked out claims they sold for something less than five hun- 
dred dollars, and a corporation, mostly of California men, 
finallv secured it. It is now the site of the famous Tread- 


well gold mills, the largest plant of the kind in the world. 
Abont a million of dollars has been spent on the plant, at 
which six hundred tons of ore are milled daily at a cost of 
about one dollar and twenty-five cents a ton. The ore 
varies in value from three dollars to seven dollars a ton. 
The supply seems inexhaustible. The company is capi- 
talized at five million dollars, and has paid nearly four mil- 
lion dollars in dividends. Joseph Juneau died a poor man. 

Being the center of such an industry, and also the chief 
rendezvous of the miners going over the passes into the in- 
terior, Juneau City will doubtless maintain its supremacy 
as Alaska's metropolis. The news of the Yukon dis- 
coveries has wrought a great change in the place since we 
went in, and promises to work greater. Joe Avas perfectly 
at home in this region, where he had worked during his 
former sojourn in Alaska. I played the part of the tourist, 
he of guide. While waiting at Juneau we purchased a 
couple of sleds well adapted to Alaskan uses, and with these 
our outfit seemed complete. 

From Juneau to Dyea is one hundred and eighteen 
miles up Lynn Canal and the Ghilkoot and Taiya (Dyea) 
Inlets. The route by Dyea and the Chilkoot Pass was the 
old reliable one, having been used by the Indians for years, 
and the one which most of the gold-seekers we had encoun- 
tered were taking. There are two others, the Skagway 
over the White Pass and the Dalton trail from the Chilkat 
Inlet. The first was thought by some to be the easier route, 
and was the one generally chosen by those who were ex- 
perimenting with horses in this rough country. It is about 
seventeen miles from tide water to the summit of the White 
Pass, and abont four miles of this is through a flat timbered 
valley. The summit is about two thousand six hundred 


feet above tide water, and the remainder of tlie rontc nntil 
it joins the Chilkoot trail is over marehes and an undidatinii; 
rocky surface exceedingly difficult for pack animals, and 
with very little soil. In 1896 this trail attracted little at- 
tention. Its prominence was to come the following year. 

If the Alaskan traveler is to experiment with horses, 
and the temptation is certainly great in view of the un- 
reliability of the Indians, he had best try the Dalton trail, 
which takes its name from Jack Dalton, who went to 
Juneau many years ago, as one story goes, because he was 
iiccused of stealing horses. He was innocent of the charge, 
but he took veugeance on the man who had accused him. 
His trail affords a tolerably good road for two hundred miles 
from tide water. The first forty miles from Chilkat Inlet 
is on a river flat with an easy grade, thence to the divide, 
which is three thousand feet above the sea level. Another 
divide is crossed twenty miles further on at the watershed 
of the Alsek and Chilkat rivers. The rest of the trail to the 
Five Finger Rapids is a succession of valleys with hardly 
perceptible divides. It is said that in summer a man with 
a saddle horse and pack animal can make thirty miles a day 
on this trail. Dalton is one of the most expert of Alaskan 

But it is the Dyea route which concerns us, and thus far 
it has remained the most practicable one. We left Juneau 
for Dyea on March 25th, on a fair-sized steamer, but quickly 
encountered difl"erent conditions from those which had yire- 
viously afforded us so much pleasure. AVe should have 
reached Dyea in twelve hours, but there seemed to be a hur- 
ricane trying to get out of the canal, which some have called 
the grandest fiord on the coast. There are a few indenta- 
tions on the coasts, which are made up of abru]")t palisades 


varied with glaciers and forests. The water is very deep in 
the channel, and a strong cold wind sucked down between 
the cliffs of either side, and tossed us about in the most bois- 
terous fashion. Drifting icebergs from the Eagle, Auk, 
and Davidson glaciers added to the confusion. After 
pitching about helplessly for some time, we put up in a little 
bay, and lay over there one day. Meanwhile most of the 
wind seemed to have worked itself out of the channel. 
Thus we did not arrive at Dyea till the 27th, and after pick- 
ing up on the way a party which had been wrecked on a 
small sailboat and had lost most of their provisions. 

Dyea is an Indian word meaning " pack " or " load." 
Certainly you would have thought it a very appropriate one 
if you had seen the gold-seekers and their belongings 
dumped on the beach, almost every man and woman with 
provisions for a year or more, while some of the dirtiest- 
looking Indians on the face of the earth hovered around 
like evil spirits. There was a small improvised wharf, 
which was of no use, as there was too little water in the chan- 
nel to permit the steamer to come up, and her cargo was dis- 
charged by scows and small boats. 

The beach was flat and covered with small rocks which 
the people there, who make their living by unloading car- 
goes and packing over the trail, leave just where Nature 
dropped them. It might hurt their business to remove 
such obstructions to convenience and safety. The 
steamer anchored about two miles from the village, it being- 
low tide. Boats were lowered and the unloading com- 
menced, the contents being dumped on the rocks, anywhere 
to get rid of them, and there was considerable confusion. 

After our goods were deposited and had been sorted out, 
the next thing was to get them up above the reach of the 


tide. AVe worked like beavers, and so did the others. 
With a little hig,h-priced help from the Indians, we man- 
aged to carry everything back about a mile from the beach, 
where we found a place to camp. There we set up our tent, 
and made preparations for the season of roughing it before 
us. About ten inches of snow covered the ground, and it 
was quite soft in places. While we ^v•ho had been used to a 
miner's life did not mind it much, there was a noticeable 
change in the faces of those who were less inured to hard- 
ships. It is not pleasant to leave the steamer and to begin 
living in a tent pitched in nearly a foot of snow. 

When we had settled ourselves as comfortably as we 
could, and had taken the opportunity to observe our sur- 
roundings, w^e were struck with, the transformation wdiich 
some of the women had undergone. Generally speaking, 
their dresses had disappeared, and they came forth in 
bloomers, and many of them in the regulation trousers of 
the other sex. It does not do to be '' squeamish" in Alaska. 
There are obstacles enough to travel, without the in- 
cumbrance of skirts. The w^omen were of all ages under 
fifty, and, as we gradually learned, the majority of them 
were unmarried, at least had no husbands wdth them, and 
their destination was the dance halls of Circle City and 
Forty Mile. They were not as a rule an attractive lot for 
fastidious people to encounter socially, but out of about 
thirty women, four or five were wives traveling with their 
husbands, or daughters with their fathers, and were very 
respectable and well-appearing people, with marks of refine- 
ment which their life in mining camps had not obliterated. 

But there is little time to observe human nature. 
There are over three thousand two hundred pounds to get 
over the trail somehow. On our two sleds w^e could di-aw a 


fair load over good roads, but the advisability of securing 
Indian packers for the bulk of the provisions was naturally 
suggested. A few of the gold pilgrims started at once to 
pack their goods further up the trail before camping. A 
feverish haste will ahvays be noticed among such pilgrims, 
though it helps but little in the end. 

In a short time a dirty one-eyed Indian came towards 
us, and in English which just escaped being unintelligible 
asked if we had packing to do. lie knew well enough we 

" How nnicli you give to summit? " he asked. 

According to the ethics of the trail the price for pack- 
ing should 2iot be bid up. If one party put up the price in 
order to secure quick service, every other Indian on the trail 
would know it in an inconceivably short space of time, and 
all would throw down their packs at once, contracts or no 
contracts. They would refuse to carry for less than the 
man in a hurry was willing to pay. One man who had 
plenty of money, it was said, bid up the price, and as a result 
received a very cold ducking in the creek. So we offered 
the Indian the prevailing price, which was seventeen cents 
a pound, and he promised to be on hand with twenty-five 
Indians early the next morning. 

" You may see that heathen in tlie morning, and you 
may not," remarked Joe, as the Indian slowly loafed away 
towards the little ^'illagc of about three hundred Chilkoots. 

We cut some hemlock brush and laid it on the snow in 
the tent, put our blankets on it, and filling our pipes sat 
down near the opening of the tent, Joe on a box of soap, I 
on some evaporated apricots. 

" Do you see that notch up yonder? " said Joe, blowing 
a cloud of smoke from his mouth. I saw it, though it was 


hardly distiiiguisliable in the whiteness of tlic towering 

" Well, this truck of ourn' has got to go up through 

I never slept better in my life than I did on those hem- 
lock boughs laid over snow. AVe were up bright and early 
to be ready for the Indians. There were no signs of them. 
We finished our breakfast, and packed the sleds which we in- 
tended to draw ourselves. Then we took down our tent, 
but no Indians came. I grew impatient, but Joe seemed 
not at all surprised. After a time he went do^^^l to the 
Indian village, but came back alone, saying tlie Indians 
were not all up. As they showed no indications of taking 
off their clothes when they retired for the night, I concluded 
that getting up could not be a long process. But it was 
over an hour before an Indian appeared, and then there 
were less than a dozen. 

" Where are the others? " I asked sternly of the one- 
eyed Chilkoot. 

" They come bimeby," he remarked indifferently. 

The wretched-looking Siwashes poked around among 
the packs, hefted them critically, then jabbered away 
among themselves, and finally informed us that they ob- 
jected to some of the articles unless an extra price was paid. 
The very Indians we had engaged were dickering with other 
parties in the same way. I tried threatening one of them, 
but it had no more effect than if he had been an iceberg. 
Joe laughed at me, while the Indians stood about chattering 
in a language that is perfectly inexpressible in any phonetic 
signs we have. Xo one would ever take it for speech but 
for the slight motions of their lips, and the convulsions in 
the throat. " A confusion of gutturals with a plentitude of 


saliva — a moist language with a gurgle that approaches a 
gargle," is the best description of it I have ever heard. 

None of the Indians seemed to be in the least hurry to 
start; indeed, they did not appear to care whether they 
started or not. Once in a while the one-eyed fellow would 
come and demand more on some flimsy pretext or otlier. 
Finally my patience gave out completely. I told Joe that 
I would rather pack our stores over a dozen Chilkoot passes 
than fool with heathen like these. So, after losing con- 
siderable time, we concluded to do our own packing, and I 
think some of those fellows went away actually relie^'ed. 
They are too lazy to regard the loss of w^ork as anything but 
a blessing. So far as I observed them, they had one virtue, 
and that was a remarkable regard for other people's prop- 
erty. They will not steal, but their word is absolutely 
worthless. They have no conception of the obligations of 
a contract. After demanding exorbitant pay, and being 
promised it, they will delay starting to suit their own feel- 
ings, and will throw down their packs at the slightest ]3rovo- 
cation. They will even trudge along with them for a long 
distance, and then, after demanding extra pay, will drop 
their burdens and return with no pay for what they have 
done. JSTo one can afford to engage them for any but short 
distances, for the point is soon reached when they have eaten 
up all they started with. 

These people may be interesting to ethnologists, and 
they may seem i^romising material for devout missionaries, 
but for the man who is in a hurry to get to the gold regions 
of Alaska they are more often a hindrance than a help. 
Where one cannot depend on horses or dogs, he will save 
his tom]~»er by depending on himself. PTe will also save a 
lot of money and a large percentage of his provisions. 



Along the Famous Dyea Trail — Walking Twenty Miles and Making 
Four — Snow, Boulders, and Glaciers — Exhibitions of Grit — Tent- 
ing in the Snow — A Democratic Crowd — The Yukon Stove — 
The So-called Gridiron — Beans and Bacon — "It will be New On 
the Yukon" — Asleep on a Bed of Boughs — What a Trail Consists 
of — A Crack Two Miles Long — Pleasant Camp — Sheep Camp 
and the Faint-Hearted — A Discouraged Man and a Resolute 
Woman — Going Over Anyhow — Not All so Brave — Having a 
Good Cry — My Theory as to the Fortitude of Some Women — 
Throwing off the Fetters of Civilization — Two Weeks of Storm — 
Monotony and Silence — An Active Glacier Entertains Us — Nature' s 
Untamed Moods — Sunshine at Last — Now for The Chilkoot! 

THE beginning of the trail over Chilkoot Pass does 
not give any indications of the difficulties a little 
further on, esiiecially under favorable conditions 
in the latter part of March. Tlie streams are still frozen, 
except in open places, and the trail along their banks is cov- 
ered with snow, wliicli in most places lias become solidly 
packed. In the early winter tlie snow is apt to be soft and 
deep, while in the summer the trails are soft and slippery, 
and streams with treacherous bottoms must be forded. 
The water is considerably colder at all times than any man- 
ufactured ice water, and tlie current is swift and strong, 



being" abundantly fed by the melting glaciers and rains 
that nevea- end till one has forgotten when they began. 

" Does it always rain here ? " I once heard a traveler 
ask of an Indian. 

" Snows sometime," replied the native, in the most mat- 
ter-of-fact manner. Before we got through the pass we 
found that it could do both at the same time without show- 
ing any signs of exhaustion. 

Joe superintended all the preparations. We increased 
the loads on our sleds to 400 pounds each, and found that 
we could pull them very comfortably for the first five miles, 
the river being frozen and the track hardened by those who 
had gone ahead. At the end of five miles the way became 
more difiicult, and, coming to a spot well timbered and 
watered, where several othei's had camped, we unloaded, 
cached our goods, and returned to camp for another load. 
We saw that we could not make the four trips necessary 
to bring up all our goods without working half the night, 
and we were tired enough to stop when we returned from 
the third load, but concluded to keep on. 

The Dyea Valley is an old river bed full of huge boul- 
ders, which make a summer trip over the trail exceedingly 
difiicult. Even in winter they are serious obstacles, as 
there are places in the river which do not freeze, and unless 
the snow is deej) the sledding is very rough on the banks. 
On either side, high up on the mountains, the tops of which 
were hidden in the clouds most of the time, were small gla- 
ciers cutting down through the scraggy growth of spruce 
and hemlock. Back and forth through this desolate valley 
w^e tramped, continually meeting others engaged in the 
same work. 

There is no time to stop to cultivate acquaintances. 


Occasionally we came up just in time to help a man right 
his overturned sled, or to extricate a woman who had stepped 
into a treacherous drift or fallen into a little crevice. 
Here and there along the way tents were passed, as well as 
caches of provisions, which were left unguarded without 
incurring serious risk. But in Alaska all provisions must 
be cached to be out of reach of the dogs. They are the 
only thieves. 

Many strange sights are witnessed even in these days, 
when the gold fields at Forty-Mile and Birch Creek are at- 
tracting fortune-seekers. AVe met a young woman who 
was going in with her husband, slowly working her way to- 
ward the pass. She was trudging along with packs of over 
forty pounds on her back, and her face bore the marks of 
refinement. The grit and nerve displayed on every side 
were marvelous. Some men preferred to make short 
marches and piled on their backs sixty or seventy-five 
pounds, keeping up a brisk gait for a mile or so, then strik- 
ing camp, and in the same way bringing up the remainder 
of their outfits. That is the hardest way and nothing is 

It was very late before we arrived with our last load and 
had our tent again set up in the snow.. Those who have 
not tried it can hardly imagine what it is to tramp twenty- 
five miles, half the way pulling four hundred pounds, in 
an intermittent snow storm, over a road which, while 
smooth for Alaska, would be deemed almost impassable in 
Xew England. 

Yet there was a novelty in the experience which was 
exhilarating, so that it did not fatigue us as much as it might 
otherwise have done. Having put up our tent and cut a 
few scraggy hemlocks, we trimmed off the tops for a bed 


and used the stumps for a fire, not so easily started with 
green wood in a snow storm. It was a very democratic 
gathering. Theire were no formalities, no hint of conven- 
tionalities of any kind. The picturesque element was not 
lacking, and the ludicrous side of life was ever present. 
Looking a few feet up the hillside through the flying snow 
I caught a glimpse of a woman who, attired in her husband's 
trousers, was turning flapjacks on a " Yukon stove," utterly 
unconscious of the ridiculous appearance she presented. 
The " Yukon stove," by the way, is a small sheet iron box 
with an oven at the back and a telescope pipe. Novices 
sometimes have to stud}^ a moment to decide which is the 
oven and which is the fire-box. This simple arrangement is 
set on a " gridiron," that is, three poles about eight feet 
long, so that when the snow melts underneath, the poles 
continue to form a support for it. Necessity is nowhere a 
more fruitful mother of invention than in Alaska. 

Joe and I confined ourselves to beans and bacon, a 
staple dish in these regions; indeed, an odor of beans and 
bacon predominates in nearly all the camps along the trail. 
AVe lighted our pipes and sat close to the little stove to dry 
our clothing. Mingled with the sighing of the wind and 
the soft beating of the snow on the tent, came the shrill 
voice of one of the dance-house girls singing a hackneyed 

" It will be new on the Yukon," observed Joe, as he 
threw himself full length on the bed of boughs, and he was 
asleep before I had time to follow. I went out and care- 
fully brushed the snow off the roof of the tent before re- 
tiring, for I had learned the importance of such a measure 
in roughing it in an even milder climate. If the interior of 
the tent is heated, the snow falling on the outside will, of 


course, become claiiij), aiul, later, when the lire has gone 
down or out, aud the interior has become cold, the damp 
snow will freeze so hard that it is almost impossible to take 
down the tent. Many found this out to their sorrow when 
the next day they started to move ahead. The stonn had 
been a cold one, and it was hours before they could pack 
their tents, and then they were weighted with ice and ex- 
tremely difficult to handle. People can cause themselves 
a world of trouble in Alaska by neglecting a few details. 

We were four days in moving our stores to Sheep Camp, 
^\•hicll is al)0ut seven miles further on. For the first two 
miles we could haul about three hundred pounds, but 
through the canon it was only by the greatest exertion that 
we could pull one hundred and fifty. The trail was much 
better from Pleasant Camp, on the other side of the caiion, 
to Sheej) Camp, but it was up-hill all the way. It snowed 
continuously, sometimes gently, and occasionally furiously. 

A trail in Alaska should not be confused with the ordi- 
nary highway of settled states. When a trail is spoken of 
as existing between two points in Alaska it has no further 
meaning than that a man, and possibly a beast of burden, 
may travel that way over the natural surface of the ground. 
There is a very strong improbability concerning the beast, 
unless it be a dog. The path may consist of nothing more 
than a marked or blazed way through an otherwise impen- 
etrable wilderness, and unless it is used more or less con- 
tinuously the traces are apt to disappear in one of Alaska's 
seasons. Xo eager prospector stops to make it any easier 
for someone else. A man carrving his food, his cooking 
utensils, and working tools on his back, has no time nor dis- 
position to cut down trees. When he comes to an unfrozen 
stream he wades it, or if a tree has fallen across it, so mucli 


tlio better. The Cliilkoot trail 2)ossesses the advantage of 
having been nsed by miners since 1880, but it was hiid ont 
1:»y Indians, who are too lazy to improve it; and, besides, 
they make a living because it is almost impossible for pack 
animals to go over it. The opening of Alaska may put an 
end to all this, so far as the Dyea trail is concerned. 

Dyea Canon is a crevice in the mountains about two 
miles long and fifty feet wide, with a raging river at the 
bottom. The topography abruptly changes. Great boul- 
ders are piled in confused heaps, and the snow-laden stumps 
of trees and upturned roots stick out in fantastic shapes. 
We kept to the iee when we could, but frequently took 
to steeper and rougher }>aths. For a short distance the 
grade is about eighteen degrees, until an elevation of five 
hundred feet is reached, and then the trail descends slightly 
to Pleasant Camp, which is not far from the mouth of the 
canon. It is a spot which is anything Init " pleasant," ac- 
cording to the significance of that term in civilized regions. 
It is applied here because a few trees have had the good 
fortune to get a living there, and they afford a kind of 
shelter and a convenient place for a camp. 

The trail from Pleasant Camp to Sheep Camp was fairly 
good, at an average elevation of five hundred feet, and with 
but few shnr]) jiitches. The cam]! itself is in a valley or 
canon about half a mile wide, with very high, steep, and 
rocky mountains on either side. The white summit of the 
Chilkoot towers three thousand feet above, but we caught 
only glimpses of it in the fickle storm. Xo timber grows 
above us. It is a frowning ]ficture and it tells on faint 
hearts. As we slowly dragged our loads, we met more than 
one mau who had turned back, unt caring to l)rave the ]iass 
for all the oold tliat niiiiht be on the other side. Alaska 


is no place for a man who, becoming- discouragecl at the hrst 
serious obstacle that presents itself, leaves a camp where \w 
sees women keeping up hearts as strong as iron, and turns 
his back. 

Sheep Camp is a favorable ])lace to discover the differ- 
ence in men and to see what some women are made of. AVe 
came across one man completely disheartened and limp, 
right at the foot of that great climb of three thousand five 
hundred feet, pleading piteously with his wife to turn back, 
while she, not half his size, but with wonderful nerve, 
bustled about their snowy camp in the bitter cold, con- 
stantly wearing a smile and cheering up her forlorn mate 
in every possible way. How will slie get him over the sum- 
mit? I thought. But she did. She just told him that she 
was going- over anyho^v, and that if he wanted to go back he 
could. She had a woman's shrewdness. She knew that, 
much as he feared to go ahead with her, he would not dare 
to go back without her. 

Shortly after pitching- our tent at Sheep Camp I looked 
out and saw a slim woman swinging an axe at a small hem- 
lock. Her tent was near l)y and she seemed to be alone. 
With a spirit of gallantly, Avhich, T am glad to say, is never 
altogether lost in mining life, I walked over and offered 
my assistance. She wanted the tree for a fire, and I soon 
had it in front of her tent ready for a blaze. She had been 
making trips to the summit of the pass all day, carrying 
packs of twenty-five pounds, and was then preparing the 
camp for her husband, who had gone to the summit with 
the last load. Her clothes were wet through; she was lame 
and tired, but she laughed good-naturedly as she told me 
some of her experiences on the awful trail, how she had 
slipped ofi" a log and fallen into the river and an Indian 


had pulled lier out by the collar of the thick coat she 

But it must not be thought that all women along the 
trail were as brave as tliis. There were exceptions. I saw 
one sitting down and having a good cry, crying for home 
and other women to talk to, perhaps, for carpets, and 
baker's bread, and the gossip of the city, and the comforts 
of civilized life. Her husband, who was pretty blue him- 
self, was tiying to comfort her. I noticed that she still 
clung to her petticoats. One could not fail to notice many 
instances, however, in which tlie women seemed to show a 
fortitude superior to the men. It was a revelation, almost a 
mystery. But after a wliile I began to account for it as the 
natural result of an escape from the multitude of social 
customs and restraints which in civilized society hedge 
about a woman's life. Hardened miners enter on the 
Alaskan trail as a sort of gi'im business, something a little 
worse than they have been accustomed to, and yet much the 
same. The stimulus received from the novelty of the situ- 
ation is much less than in the case of a woman, especially 
one who has not been used to roughing it. She steps out 
of her dreSvS into trousers in a region where nobody cares. 
Her nature suddenly becomes aware of a freedom which 
is in a way exhilarating. She has, as it were, thro\\Ti off 
the fetters which civilized society imposes, and while re- 
taining her womanliness she becomes something more than 
a mere woman. Her sensitive nature is charmed with 
the new conditions, and her husband, who has had the 
advantage of no such metamorphosis, sits down, tired 
and disheartened by the obstacles in his path, and marvels 
at his wife as she drags her heavv rubber boots throuch the 


snow and climbs; with a light liL-art the precipices of mighty 

Tlie weather was fairly good wdiile Ave were bringing 
our stores up to Sheep Camp, but as soon as we had them 
settled there and were ready to begin on the summit it be- 
came ferociously cold. The mercury fell to eighteen de- 
grees below zero, the snow flew at intervals, and at times 
the wind would swoop down through the valley like an 
avalanche, rolling from the great peaks above us. On one 
side of the valley is a large glacier. We could stand at the 
entrance of our tent, looking across the canon, and see it 
very plainly, about two miles a^vay. A w^all of ice eighty 
or ninety feet high marked its lower end, and occasionally 
a great piece of ice would break off and c»me rolling down 
into the valley. Tlie earth would tremble and the roar of 
the mighty crash was like a |>eal of distant thunder through 
the mountain gorges. TA^dce while I was watching I saw 
gTeat pieces of ice many times larger than the great sky- 
scraping buildings of Chicago break away and come tumb- 
ling into the caiion below. 

The scenery was sublime, but the weather continued 
abominable and we were detained at this camp for Uyo 
weeks. Few thought of venturing over the summit under 
such conditions. The wind must be still and tlie sky clear. 
Once, when the prospects seemed brighter, we strapped on 
our packs and started out, but soon it began to storm again. 
"We met a party of Indians and prospectors who had started 
earlier and had cached some of their goods at a ]>oint well 
up on the trail and were going back to wait again. They 
warned us that it was dangerous to attempt an ascent, but 
as we had light packs and tho wind was blowing in our 
direction we decided to push ahead. The trail grew worse, 


the wind increased and sifted the snow across the track 
so that we could not fail to recognize the serious dangers 
of a misstep. And so we followed the others back to 

It was a very dreary camp during those two weeks. 
There was no laughter there. The everlasting hills and 
the apparently everlasting storm hung over the little valley 
like a harsh penalty. Difficult as it is to follow the trails, 
there is nothing so hard as to keep still in these regions, 
especially when the mercury is far below zero. We got 
along very comfortably, however, as our tent was a good 
one and we had plenty of blankets. There were about a 
hundred others in the camp, but they kept closely to their 
tents most of the time. Indeed, wdien the wind went down 
the stillness over that little clump of white habitations 
among the stunted trees was almost appalling. No hum of 
industry or sound of sociability disturbed the silence. Cut 
oif from the world, a man feels himself dwindling into a 
mere atom amkl these silent, everlasting hills. He feels 
almost like speaking in whispers when, suddenly, on the op- 
pressive stillness there breaks a sharp report like a claj? of 
thunder, and it goes on roaring, and dies away grumbling 
and murmuring amid the mountains. Then all is still 
again. A glacier has moved. Here is where iSTature 
is working. She is young yet, the hills have not been 
ground down. But in her youthful, untamed moods she is 

The anomaly presented by the region forced itself more 
clearly upon us when we considered that we were practi- 
cally in the same latitude as St. Petersburg, where the bril- 
liant court of a great enrpirc is held. AVe were still eight 
hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle. We were hardly 


iivc huiulreJ feet above tlie sea level, but in an inhospitable 
region, where heroic courage and endurance are requisites; 
a wilderness with the snow and ice around and above us. 

At last the clouds passed away, and the sun shone out 
for a time with dazzling brightness. The white peaks above 
us fairly glowed. The little camp was alive. 



A Steep Trail — Climbing the Mountain Forty Times — Some of the 
Diiliculties — Missteps that are Dangerous — Straight up over 
Seven Hundred Feet — An Obscure Summit — Facilitating the Re- 
turn — Trousers Fortified with a Canvas Patch — A Slide in the 
Trench — Tobogganing Outdone — A Collision — Out of Sight in 
the Deep Snow — " There Comes a Woman " — Down Like a Flash 

— Runaway Sleds — An Alaskan Sunburn — Snow-blindness — A 
Painful Experience — On the Summit at Last — A Grand Spectacle 

— Turning Sleds Loose down the Mountain — Bounding over 
Crater Lake — Lake Lindeman — Observing the Timber — The Ir- 
responsible Indian — Signaling by Burning Trees — Ice-sledding 
across Lindeman — Lake Bennett — Flapjacks and Congratulations. 

FROM Sheep Camp to tlie summit of Chilkoot Pass is 
about four miles, and we determined to carry all 
our things up on our backs. The trail was so steep 
most of the way that it would have been impossible to haul 
more than a hundred pounds on a sled, and added to this 
would be the weight of the sled. The latter part of the 
way is altogether too perpendicular for comfortable sled- 
ding. It is a steady ascent from the camp to the " Scales," 
which is a flat place at the fqot of ^' the last climb." The 
grade from the camp to Stone House, so called because 
nature seems to have arranged the rocks with more sym- 
metry than usual, and that is saying very little, is from 
6 (85) 


twelve to eiiilitecn degrees; from tlicre to the ** Scales " it 
is about twenty-five degrees, aud from that place to the 
summit about thirty degrees, though the last ascent is 
nearer thirty-five. The ascent is one thousand nine hun- 
dred and fifty feet in the first three miles, and one thousand 
two hundred and fifty in the next mvle. 

This does not look great on paper, and it is not; for 
mountain climbers are every day ascending steeps as great 
and twice as high. But they are not compelled to take 
along all they are to have to eat, to wear, and to use for a 
year or more. Therein lies one of the main difficulties in 
proceeding to the interior of Alaska. If one could depend 
upon warehouses within easy reach, could buy what he 
wanted as he journeyed from place to place, traveling in 
Alaska would have a few pleasures in it. At least it would 
not be difficult. 

Joe and I were compelled to make forty trips over these 
steep places to get our outfit to the summit, and climbing a 
mountain forty times with a heavy pack on the back is dif- 
ferent from climbing it once almost empty-handed and for 
fun. Many took all their goods to the Stone House at first, 
and then by another stage carried them to the " Scales " ; 
then by another to the summit. AVe adopted difl^erent tac- 
tics. Having strapped our packs on, we continued to the 
foot of the last ascent, and there if the weather was bad we 
would leave them, otherwise we continued on to the sum- 
mit. As the wind was blowing most of the time, this re- 
sulted in our having most of our outfit at the foot of the 
final ascent before we had many opportunities to view the 
summit, or any at all to indulge in a view from it. 

The trail up to the " Scales " looks smooth when the 
snow lies decjD OA^er it, but it is, nevertheless, difficult, and 


by a single misstep the traveler may find himself bnried to 
the armpits. Underneath are great masses of rocks, and 
part of the way fallen trees, but the timber belt ends com- 
pletely at Stone House. One of the difficulties in the 
ascent lay in successfully passing those who were descend- 
ing for another load, for the way is exceedingly narrow, 
and one must not step out of the trail except with the great- 
est caution. Occasionally a man would find himself at the 
bottom of a crevice forty feet or so below the trail, and he 
could make his way back only with the greatest difficulty. 

The last climb of nearly seven hundred feet up a moun- 
tain peak that seemed to rise almost straight before us was 
the hardest of all. The trail winds in zigzag fashion in and 
around the boulders and over the glacial streaks, but at this 
time it was covered with snow, in some places fifty feet deep. 
In tlie steeper places steps were cut in the ice and snow, 
and in taking a pack up one was compelled to lean forward 
and use his hands on the icy steps. Occasionally a tired 
man would make a misstep, or his foothold caved off, and 
down the precipice he rolled, landing in the soft snow, from 
which he had to extricate himself and again attempt the 
tiresome climb. Its was drudgery in its simplest and purest 
form. One hundred pounds was the most that either of us 
could take, and then it required an hour to cover that seven 
hundred feet to the summit, which we generally found 
covered with a blinding snow storm or bathed in an ice-fog. 

Fortunately, in returning we could make up for lost 
time. So steep and so treacherous was the trail, and so 
many were working up it, that the descent by the steps for 
another load was as trying work as the ascent. The grim 
mother of invention again came to the rescue. Nearly 
everybody fortified the seat of his trousers by sewing on a 


piece of canvas, aiul as there was a short cut back to the bot- 
tom of the trail, straight and smooth bnt too steep to climb, 
it was brought into use for the purposes of returning, a 
trench being formed thereby. One would sit down in this 
trench at the top, and just hold his breath till he struck the 
bottom. He need not hold it long. It took less time to slide 
down than it takes to tell of it. Once started there was no 
opportunity to stop, and no time to consider such a question. 
I remember that at the first trial I picked myself out of the 
snow" and thought I would give up that sport. It seemed a 
little too much like riding an avalanche bareback, I was 
so much larger and heavier than the rest that gravity gave 
me a greater speed. In places the ditch was as much as 
four feet deep, but in other places it w\as shallow, and there 
was danger of jumping the track. Once I ran into a little 
man and w^as thrown completely out of the groove. Down 
the mountain side I plowed, plunging entirely out of sight 
in the soft snow at the bottom. I picked myself out and 
was not in the least hurt. The little man righted himself 
somehow, and came doAMi the groove in good order. After 
awhile the experience began to have the flavor of true sport, 
and the more we tried it the better we liked it. 

The women Avere a little timid at first, but they looked 
as if they would like to try it. " I'll try it if you w^ill," 
they kept saying to one another. Standing at the bottom 
and seeing men come down the seven-hundred-foot groove, 
it looked easy, but when standing at the summit and looking 
down was something appalling. Finally, as w^e were about 
to start up with a pack, some one shouted, " There comes a 

We could see her fidgeting a little at the top; tlien she 
WTapped her coat about her, dropped into the trench, and 


down she came like a flash. She picked herself up out of 
the snow rosy and smiling. Then this method of descent 
became general. They seemed to enjoy it as much as the 
men, but most of those whom I saw going down were of the 
(lance-hall variety. It appeared to be a little too much for 
the staider matrons, even in men's clothes. 

Occasionally, on our way back to Sheep Camp for a load 
we also saved a little time by securing a ride on some one's 
sled. There was one hill, quite steep and over a mile long. 
By having one man to guide the sled, and another to run a 
stout stick down through the center for a brake, a small load 
of men could slide to the bottom in a very short time, and 
generally without mishap. An experienced man will guide 
these sleds with a pole about six feet long very cleverly, but 
the inexperienced sometimes make bad work. There were 
nmaway sleds about every day, and generally some one was 
hurt. But in such places nothing is serious, so long as a 
man escapes with his life. 

It is, however, in the milder winter months only that 
the difficult ascent can be varied with such amusements as 
these. After the snow has melted the trail becomes one of 
confused boulders, roaring streams, and creviced glaciers. 
To be sure, we suffered from the cold, and sometimes 
severely, but, on the Avhole, going over the summit is much 
pleasanter at this season than in the rains of the summer 
months, when the trails quickly become muddy and the 
streams must be forded. 

On my trip over I suffered from sunburn more than 
anything else. It may sound strange to speak of sunburn 
when clambering over snow many feet deep, but when in 
Alaska the sun begins to shine, it is wnth a blazing fierce- 
ness. My epidermis was well hardened before I started for 


Alaska, but some of the time, wliile working over the pass, 
my face became so swollen that I could hardly see out of my 
eyes. It was exceedingly painful, and often kept me 
awake nights when T was very tired. AVhen the wind blew 
and the snow flew, my face would smart as if burned by 
steam. Many of us learned to blacken our faces with burnt 
cork or charcoal, and this served not simply to protect the 
skin somewhat, but to protect the eyes. AVe were gruesome 
objects with our black faces and goggles. Snow-blindness 
was another serious danger. Snow glasses are an absolute 
necessity in Alaska, and especially when going over the 
snowy passes in the full blaze of the sun ; and one must be 
very careful about taking them oif. Occasionally, when 
several of us would be trudging up the steep path together a 
cry would be heard. Some one had suddenly become snow 
blind, and had to be led back to camp. Such unfortunates 
would suffer intense pain, and would not regain their sight 
for three or four days. 

But at last we have reached the summit of that snow- 
wrapped peak towards which we have been making our wa}'- 
for twenty-three days. Fifteen miles in twentv-tliree 
days! After such a journey there should be something 
besides the mere consolation of having at last conquered the 
obstacles in the path. There is. It is a great temptation 
not to throw off the snow-glasses, as we stand on that 
dazzling summit. The clouds have been blown away for a 
time. The whole scene lies under the fierce sunlight of an 
Alaskan April day. 

And what a picture! It seems not of this world; it 
is so strange, so unique. Almost at our feet is the little 
armlet of the Pacific which we left nearly a month ago, 
and bevond that and this side of the great Pacific a hun- 

"nature's fierce artillery" 91 

dred miles away, stretch the snow peaks and their shining 


" Silence reigus! the awful stillness 
Like a phantom presence lingers 
All unseen, but felt so plainly 
That it seems to touch the senses. 

"Far away the mountain ranges 
Pile in wild unclassed confusion, 
Eagged peaks, extinct volcanoes, 
Rounded knolls and wave-like hillocks 
Clustering near or stretching outward 
Far beyond our wondering vision: 
Snow-clad all, or maybe sliiniug 
Underneath an icy garment. 
Glacier, cliff, and mountain shoulder 
Leaning close against the other, 
By the ice-keen chisels blended, 
Until ice and stone are welded 
In a firm eternal union. 

" Crash and boom! the silence wakens 
With a shock, whose mighty roaring 
Rends the clouds with thunderous pealing! 
Sends its varying detonations 
Rolling o'er the bay's clear surface! 
Bounding forth o'er mountain summits 
Where their echoes catch its thunders 
And repeat them loudly, wildly, 
As if Nature's fierce artillery 
Joined its mightiest cannonading 
In one grand, triumphant salvo! 
In a thousand-voiced announcement 
Of an iceberg's bold departure 
On its evanescent journey." 

Turning in the other direction we behold the hills mel^ 
ing nway into the great watershed of the mighty Yukon, 
which runs its winding course to the Bering Sea throe thou- 
sand miles. At our feet lies the first of the frozen lakes.; a 


body of water lying in an okl crater and now covered with 
ice and snow. This is the next stage of our journey, and 
the old adage that it is easier to fall than to climb was illus- 
trated in Chilkoot style. The descent to the lake, which is 
five hundred feet, is smooth and straight, and the Indians, 
wlu) were packing for parties on the trail, securely tied their 
])acks to sleds, mounted them as a clown would mount a 
circus donkey, and off they went. The sleds shot down the 
decline with terrific speed and bounded off on to the frozen 
lake, sometimes going eight hundred yards before stopping. 
But for the snow^ they would have gone much further. 
Sometimes a sled would swerve a little or strike a slight ob- 
stacle and the Indians would fly off into the air and roll like 
bimdles to the lake. A -perpendicular bank about six feet 
high stretches around the lake, and this the sleds would 
clear with a long leap to the ice below, and he was a good 
Indian who stuck. 

As the sleds seemed to go equally well without Indians 
as with, we concluded to let ours go alone. They behaved 
nicely, and clambering down the decline after them we 
drew them on across the lake, where they were unloaded, 
and we then pulled them back for another load and a slide. 
At the end of the lake we cached our provisions and pushed 
on with our tent and a few articles to Lake Lindeman. The 
trail at this season is not difficult, as trails go in Alaska. 
The lakes were frozen and the only impediment on them 
was the snow, wdiich in plac-es was soft and wet. The 
lengthening days were beginning to have their effect on the 
lower lands. Crater Lake is not more than a mile in 
diameter, and the outlet is over a lava bed of rough boulders. 
Long Lake lies a little lower, and is studded with glaciers. 
The traveling becomes tedious, difficult, and slow, and the 


greatest care must be used in places, the dangers of which 
may be hidden by the weakening snow. After passing 
Deep Lake, we follow a dim trail, almost indiscernible at 
times, and then, from the top of a rough little hill, Lake 
Lindeman lies below. 

It is said to be less than ten miles from the summit to 
Lindeman. It seems twice that distance, but we managed 
to bring up our entire outfit in four trips, and were the best 
part of three days in doing it. In the summer we were told 
the natives maintained what were called ferries on this 
chain of little lakes, but the charges were enormous and 
many preferred to keep to the trails, trying though they 

From the Stone House to the vicinity of Lindeman not 
enough wood can be found to start a fire. At first we came 
to little clumps of short, scrubby pines or spruce, scarcely 
three feet high and twisted into all sorts of fantastic shapes 
by the winter gales, but around Lindeman could be found a 
few fair-sized trees, though few were over thirty feet high. 
They are mainly confined to varieties of spruce, yellow 
cedar, hemlock, and balsam fir, but spruce everywhere pre- 
dominates, and its lumber resembles that of southern or 
pitch pine. The hemlock is less plentiful. White spruce 
is the staple timber, and though in some places near running 
streams it attains the height of from fifty to one hundred 
feet, it is most commonly found below forty, and averaging 
about fifteen inches at the butt. It is a fairly clear white 
wood, straight grained, and easily worked, light, and yet 
very tough. It endures the weather well, and a log 
house built of it is good for over twenty years. It abounds 
in a light and delicate looking gum, and those addicted to 
the chewing-gum habit can always be sure of a supply. 


Good timber, however, was not plentiful at Lindeman, 
even at this time. Much of it had been burnt off. In the 
summer, we are told, when the Indians are resting on their 
journeys and are pestered bv insects, they set fire to the 
leaves and twigs about them and then sit in the dense smoke 
which keeps a few of the mosquitoes at a distance. After 
his rest the native goes fonvard without extinguishing his 
fire, and as the vegetation is rank and inflammable in the 
long summer days, the fire quickly spreads to the trees and 
to the forests. The Indian also has a way of signaling by 
burning trees. When in a locality wdiere he expects to find 
his friends or family, he sets fire to a tall spruce, and then 
calmly sits down and watches the horizon for an answering 
column of smoke. The wind will fan these flames into a 
fierce forest fire in a short time, and the Indians are too ut- 
terly indifferent to think of putting them out. 

Some gold pilgrims, worn out by the arduous tramp over 
the pass, pitched their cainps at Lake Lindeman to await the 
]:)reaking up of the ice, meanwhile entering upon the con- 
struction of a boat which they fondly hoped would diminish 
the tediousness of the further trip. But the ice was in such 
excellent condition here and the timber so poor that we de- 
cided to push on. 

Lake Lindeman is a narrow piece of water six miles long, 
hemmed in with ragged hills. It is close to the bound- 
ary line between the territory of the United States and that 
of Queen Victoria. On the cone of an immense boulder on 
the left, as w^e looked down the frozen lake, fluttered the 
Stars and Stripes, and from another staff close by waved the 
ensign of Great Britain. Both had been tattered in the 
gales from the great regions of the Xorth. 

A stiff breeze was blowine; in our direction as we started 


from the head of the lake. The snow was not deep except 
in spots; so, rigging up sails on our sleds, we fastened them 
together, and away we sped with a load of one thousand two 
hundred pounds. This was sport. Taking a position on 
the back of the sleds we used two long poles as a rudder, 
though it was a severe task on the arms. Occasionally we 
would run into a drift of snow and the speed would slacken, 
or we might stop altogether while the mnd tore over our 
sails in a threatening manner. Then we would jump out, 
pull tlicm beyond the drift, jump on, and resume our steer- 
ing. In this way we made the length of the lake in forty 
minutes. Others adopted the same tactics, and the scene 
of these ice sleds sailing over the lake, which seemed like a 
great canon, was indeed picturesque, and very much 
pleasanter than the raft trips made later in the season, when 
the wind is likely to " kick up " a lively sea and drench the 
poor gold-seeker and his goods. He has usually by this 
time become so hardened and so accustomed to the ways of 
the country, that he does not mind such a little matter as a 
wet skin, and a camp in the snow or on the spongy lowlands. 

The portage from Lake Lindeman to Lake Bennett is 
along a rocky canal which plunges into a canon filled with 
boulders. The stream cut through a wall of granite and 
basaltic formation for three-quarters of a mile, and has a fall 
of forty feet. The latter part of the portage is over a sandy 
ridge, away from the stream and much better traveling. 

Here many of the gold-seekers decided to camp and 
build their boats, but as the weather was fair and the travel- 
ing on the ice easy, we concluded to push to the other end 
of the lake, or further, before going into camp. Lake Ben- 
nett, so named by Seliwatka after James Gordon Bennett, 
is thirtv-four miles Ion"', and from one to two miles in width. 


About foiirtG'en miles down, the southwest arm of the lake 
joins it, and from its hills fierce winds usually blow. Thus 
the trip over the lake is much more comfortable on the ice 
than on the water. We made the first trip in one day. The 
wind favored us, and we exchanged services with a man who 
was endeavoring to take in some horses, which helped us very 
materially. On the second trip, however, when compelled 
to depend on ourselves, we had head winds, and we were 
three days in making the single trip. It was hard work at 

At Caribou Crossing, which separates Lake Bennett 
from Tagish Lake, we learned that there was some open 
water beyond. The crossing is a neck of sluggish river, and 
is so named because the caribou use it in their migrations 
south in the spring and north in the fall. The ice and snow 
were growing very soft under the sun of the lengthening 
days, though the air from the peaks continued cold. AVe 
determined to halt at Tagish Lake and luiild the craft upon 
which we were to depend to take us down the upper waters 
of the Yukon. 

'' I guess the worst is over for a time," said Joe that 
evening, as we sat by the little box of a stove devouring flap- 
jacks as fast as they could be cooked., AVe both were 
hungry and kept well ahead of the stove. 

" Our health has been good, anyhow," I remarked; 
" but I don't belicA-e there is any worse traveling this side of 
the moon. And there is one consolation, I'm thinking, 
Joe, whatever society we have will at least be made up 
of persons of grit. Anybody who gets over here has got to 
be made of stout stuff, even though it is put together wrong. 
If you had just sat down in 'Frisco and told me in detail 
what this tramp would be, I think I should have looked on it 



as a rather long and at times agreeable method of premedi- 
tated suicide." 

" Well, it may amount to that yet," said Joe, as he 
turned over another flap jack, eagerly waiting for it to 
brown. I had finished mine, and was patiently waiting for 
my turn to brown another. 



Our Camp at Lake Tagish — Building a Boat — The Saw Pit — Pre- 
paring the Trees — WhijJ-sawiug — Its Effect on Character — An 
Accident — Almost a Quarrel — A Case in Which Angels Would 
Lose their Amiability — Spoiling the First Log — "Work it Some- 
how" — The Dish-Kag and the Dog — A Bargain — Adventure of a 
New Yorker with a Bear and Three Cubs — An Excited Man — 
He Empties His Gun and Nearly Kills His Dog — I Lend Him 
My Kifle — The Bear Finally Gives It Up ~ Catching the Cubs — 
Tough Hams — Our Triumphant Return — An Old Timer's Bear 
Story — Face to Face with a Wounded Bear — Playing Possum — 
Just in Time — A Narrow Escape — " Dou"t Go Off Half-Cocked." 

IT was the first of May wlieii we went into camp near 
Tagisli Lake, which is nsnally reckoned as al)ont sixty 
miles from Dyca. Although we had made much 
better time after crossing the Chilkoot, we had averaged less 
than two miles a day on the whole tramp, and now we were 
destined to lie in camp for an indefinite tiine while building 
our boat and waiting for the river to be safely free of ice. 
But this, bear in mind, was before anything was known of 
the Klondike. AVhile some were hurrying along as fast as 
they could, and faster than was safe, the majority were 
taking time, and really enjoying their rough fare in camp 
after the ordeals of the pass. The location was very good 
for camping purposes, and as four or five other parties were 



there building their boats we did not lack for company. 
We were also afforded a little opportunity to study the 
methods of boat-building in these primitive regions. I 
knew nothing at all about the construction of boats and 
Joe's experience had been small. Very soon I came 
to the conclusion that all the knowledge about boats there 
was in the whole camp would not have taken a man far 
out to sea. But Joe pretended that he knew all about it, 
and I had the greatest confidence in his judgment, mainly 
because he had been over the route before. 

The first essential in building boats a la Yukon is to 
know what constitutes suitable trees, and the next is to find 
them. Two logs w^oulcl be sufficient, if they would cut 
nine-inch boards, but the great majority of the trees will 
not allow it. After roaming about for some time Joe found 
three which he thought would do, and these we cut down 
and dragged to a place near the lake. 

The next essential is a " saw-pit." As little boat-build- 
ing had been done at this lake we could not avail oureelves 
of what someone else had left, but had to construct a pit of 
our own. We hunted about for four trees near the beach, 
standing as nearly as possible in the same relation to each 
other as the corners of a rectangular parallelogram. These, 
when found, we cut off about six feet from the ground, 
thus constituting the four legs or support of the platform. 
The tops of these stumps were then hollowed out so that 
logs could be laid across each pair, that is the narrow sides 
of the parallelogram. We fastened these cross-pieces, after 
a fashion, with spikes, and the saw-pit was complete. The 
only difficulty about this part of the process is that it is hard 
work, and takes time, and generally has to be done either 
while it rains or while it snows. The man who travels in 


Alaska only when the weather is gocxl will make about a 
mile a month, on an average. And it is a country of mag- 
nificent distances. 

The pit being- ready, we squared off the butt ends of 
the logs and spotted them, that is, cut them the right length, 
and straightened them as well as we could with an axe. 
Skids were then placed against the pit and a log was rolled 
up to the platform ready to be sawed; also two others to 
serve as a sort of foot-rest for the victim destined to stand 
above. We then peeled off the bark and sap-wood, and 
with a chalk-line marked off two slabs. 

" You see," said Joe, " that will give you a good place 
on which to stand and see the chalk-marks when we come 
to saw off the boards." 

It looked very reasonable, like very many other theories 
which can be found without taking the trouble and risk 
of going to Alaska. "NVe put a wedge under the logs so 
as to prevent them from rolling while sawing off the slabs, 
and tlien the sa^\ang began; also the trouble. 

A whip-saw is a long, coarse-toothed saw, tapering to 
one end and with handles fixed to each end at right angles. 
It is an invention of the tempter. It ought to be sup- 
pressed. No character is strong enough to withstand it. 
Two angels could not saw their fii-st log' with one of these 
things without getting into a fight. 

I learned this gi-adually, however. I had allowed Joe 
to boss all proceedings, and when he said that I might stand 
on top while sawing off the slabs, I thought, perhaps, that 
out of the goodness of his heart he was gi-anting me a con- 
siderable privilege, for the man on top has only to pull up 
the saw while the one below imlls it down and does the cut- 
ting. So up I climbed, and, taking my end of the saw ^^^th 


a light heart, we worked aw^ay at the butt end of a log for 
a while, and finally got the saw started on the chalk line. 
As a matter of fact, we both were green at this business. 
Pretty soon I was startled at hearing Joe swear. This was 
unusual. He was a man who swore only on great occasions. 

" What's the matter ? " I asked, looking down, and see- 
ing Joe's face distorted and his eyes blinking. 

" You mind your own end of it," he answered back, 
rather spitefully. 

I kept on pulling up the saw with a feeling that I was 
doing my duty, Avhen Joe shouted savagely: 

" Say, don't you know a chalk-line when you see it ? " 

" I'm not doing the sawing," I replied, " you pull the 
saw down, and if you don't keep on your mark I can't keep 
on mine." 

" Well, you just keep her running on your line and I'll 
look out for the under one," he retorted. I have not 
quoted him exactly. There are certain figures of speech 
used by men of strong natures, when angry, that look some- 
what harsh in print. I tried to pull the saw towards the 
mark, and did so, but soon it got to running the other side; 
then I steered it back, and so it went, wobbling around the 
line, till Joe, firing another chain-shot of forceful expres- 
sions, gave the saw a spiteful pull. The wedges slipped 
from under the slippery log I was standing on and it shot 
off the pit, saw and all, with a suddenness which would have 
turned a firecracker green with envy. I came down on 
my back on one of the little stumps under the pit. Joe 
stood watching me for a moment as I sat there rubbing sev- 
eral of my shorter ribs. 

" You're a dandy," he said, as he walked over and ex- 
tricated the saw. 


1 felt that he was to blame for giving the saw such a 
spiteful pull, and my first impulse was to get up and have 
it out with him. We had been good friends for a long 
time. We were '' pardners " in all that that word signifies 
in a mining camp. We had shared all the hardships of the 
tramp, and I would have risked my life any day to save 
his, and I knew he would have done the same for me. We 
had braved the Chilkoot together and the severities of camp 
life in the snow, and here we were at odds over sawing a log; 
at odds before we had sawed five feet for the first slab. And 
we were to saw enough boards to build a boat. 

" See here, Joe," I said at last. " If I am to kill anyone 
over this business I'd rather it wouldn't be you. Suppose 
I swap off with someone in one of the other parties, and 
then you or I can have it out with some other fellow." 

But we finally made up, rolled the log up to the pit 
again and resumed. We managed to keep quiet for a long 
time under the greatest temptations. No two green men 
can follow a chalk line on their first log. One will be on 
one side of it on top and of course the saw will run on the 
other side on the bottom. The first log is nearly always 
spoiled and boards three-quarter-inch on one edge and one 
and a quarter on the other will be the result. Such boards 
will not do for w^ater-tight joints. We spoiled our first log 
and had several wordy tussles, and lost four or five days, 
and, I am afraid, came near losing our immortal souls. But 
finally we got down to work and towards the end sawed out 
as nice lumber as could be had at a sawmill. I found that 
the man on the under side had the worst of it, after all, 
for in pulling the saw down the saw dust spurts into his 
eyes, and the chalk-line is a more troublesome thing to 
contend with than when on top. It was more trying than 


the Chilkoot Pass. Others had similar experiences, and 
some of the boats turned out in that camp were fearful and 
wonderful to behold. Some of them looked like coffins; 
but we discovered afterwards, when we came to some of the 
rapids, that looks did not count. 

After one of the days of hard work, the one in which 
we had at last completed the sawing of the logs, and while 
I was washing the supper dishes in the lake through a hole 
in the ice, I began to reflect. The experience of whip- 
sawing had developed elements of danger which I had not 
suspected in the beginning, and I was now in the dark as 
to what new surprise might be lurking in the building of 
the boat, now that the lumber was ready. Joe was sitting 
in front of the tent, enjoying a smoke and the scenery. 

" Do you know how to put this lumber together ? " I 

Joe twisted one leg over the other with the air of a man 
who knew exactly what was to be done, and was just self- 
sacrificing enough to impart a little of his knowledge to 
the ignorant. 

" It's easy enough," he said. " You see, in the first 
place, we must make the frame of her. We'll take some 
small poles and set them about two feet apart. The bottom 
piece must be ' half-scarfed,' or ' half -checked' ; that is, 
cut through at each end half way, at an angle at which the 
upright pieces are to stand. Midships the ribs will be 
nearly straight up and down, while at the bow they will 
be much more inclined. The bottom and sides of the ribs 
must be nailed firmly together, and then the boat is ready 
to be built. A platform of saw-horses and two planks must 
be made, and over these tlie ribs will be laid, bottom up. 
for that is the way she will be built." 

106 "WORKING IT somehow" 

" I hope that's not the way she'll sail," 1 said. 

" The center jjlank, or keel piece," continued Joe, 
witliont noticing sncli a trivial interruption, " must be nailed 
down to the ribs first, and each rib then put in its proper 
place from stem to stern. Each bottom-piece must be nailed 
on in turn and brought up close. By the way. Bill, did you 
bring a boat-clamp ^ " 

" Xot that I know of." 

'*' I knew we'd forget something we would need, but 
we can work it somehow." 

I suggested no objections, having by this time learned 
that about the only way to do things in Alaska was " to work 
it somehow." 

" AVhen it comes to putting on the side planks," con- 
tinued Joe, " the ribs will have to be shaped a little, so as 
to bring the planks up close to them, so as not to have them 
rest on sharp edges, for, you see, I am going to give her a 
pointed nose and a square stern." 

" That seems reasonable and commendable," I said, as T 
threw the dish-rag at a dog that was sticking his nose into 
one of the kettles, and which thereupon picked up the rag, 
ran off a little distance, and began to eat it up. I was be- 
ginning to learn something of the ways of the country. 

" A stem-piece must be firmly attaqhed to the keel- 
piece," continued Joe, " and over this, to protect the bow 
of the boat, must be fastened a strip of tough wood, about 
three inches thick by four wide. Then comes the caulking. 
Anybody can do that." 

TVe had cut our lumber twenty-six feet long and eight 
inches wide. T suggested to Joe that the lumber did not 
seem to me long enough for a boat to take us and all our 


But Joe had been clown the river before, and he qnietly 
" allowed '' that he knew what sort of a boat was needed. 
In fact, I think he rather resented my criticisms, for he 
made the projiosition that he should build the boat him- 
self, and that I should look after the camp, do the cooking, 
and so forth. I agTced to the bargain readily, for I knew 
that these duties would give me much spare time, and my 
hunting instincts had been aroused by an occasional glimpse 
of game in the woods. So Joe kept at work on the boat, 
and nearly every day I shouldered my rifle and disappeared 
in the woods. Grouse and rabbit w^ere plenty about this 
place, and I brought in a great many, so we would have 
lived quite like epicures had I made fewer disastrous ex- 
periments in cooking. One day I ran across two mountain 
sheep, and I saw a good many moose and bear tracks, but 
they were difficult to trace, for the snow was nearly off the 
ground by this time and everything was beginning to look 

One day I started out with two other boys in the camp, 
one a fellow by the name of Cook, from New York. We 
were simply after any game we could find. Coming to a 
small hill in the timber, we separated, I to go one side. 
Cook the other, and the third fellow was to go to the top. 
I had gone on slowly for perhaps half a mile when I heard 
Cook's dog barking, and then Cook began shouting for us 
with all the strength of his lungs. I started on a brisk inin, 
imagining that he must have come across a dragon by the 
way he was shouting. The other fellow came tearing down 
the hill, too, and when I reached them they both were look- 
ing up a tall spruce and the dog was dancing about in a per- 
fect frenzy. 

Hanging to the limbs near the top of the tree were four 


bears, an old one and t.lircc cubs. Cook had never seen 
a bear before outside of a menagerie, and his excitement 
was such that he could hardly tell one end of the gun from 
the other. But according to the ethics of the woods they 
were his bears. His dog bad treed them, and it was bis 
privilege to do the shooting. His desire was to kill the 
mother and catch the cubs alive. He walked off a few steps 
and aimed, but I could see the muzzle of his gun wobbling 
like a weather-vane. He had a good, clear chance, but he 
did not hit her, nor anything else. But the next time he 
fired he crippled her, and down she came with a tremendous 
thump at the foot of the tree, wdiere she picked herself up 
and faced the dog, which, more brave than discreet, pitched 
into her. She gave him a savage little cuff, which sent him 
rolling through the underbrush, and Cook, who was scarcely 
thirty feet off, fired again and missed her. The dog began 
to dance around her again, and at Cook's next shot the dog 
ran away with a yelp. The bullet had grazed his neck. 

Cook was getting more excited than ever. He emptied 
his gun, and though the poor bear was too crippled to keep 
her feet she was still lively. I was longing for one shot at 
her, but I gave my gun to Cook, and after he had nearly 
emptied that the bear gave up the ghost. 

" Cook," said I, " if it takes two gunsfor one bear, w^hat 
would you do with two liears and one gun ? " 

" They die hard, don't they ? " 

" Unless you hit 'em." 

Then we turned our attention to the cubs. The other 
fellow volunteered to go up the tree, and when he had 
climbed as far as it would hold him, he cut off the top, and 
dowTi the cubs came, one of them getting his back broke. 
AVe rushed in to catch the others, and they scratched and 


bit like demons. The one I had canght hold of was par- 
ticularly ferocious, and I carry on one hand a scar which 
he gave me. Cook had a tussle with his, but he was better 
at catching them alive than shooting them, and, after skin- 
ning the old bear and appropriating the hams, we started for 
camp, leading the two cubs, while the dog urged them on 
from behind. 

On the way. Cook slipped in crossing a ravine, dropped 
his cord, and in a twinkling his cub was up a tree. We 
had to cut oif the top of that one also before we had him 
again. We found the hams too tough to eat. That night 
one of the cubs broke his chain somehow and got away, so 
Cook had only one cub and a bear skin to show for all his 

Our exploit aroused considerable interest in the little 
camp that night, but Cook didn't enjoy it, as much sport 
was made of his marksmanship. These brown bears will 
sometimes fight very fiercely, and a man needs to keep a 
cool head and to be a good shot. 

" It would 'a been all day with you," said one of the 
old-timers who was coming in with us, " if you had shot like 
that when meeting the brown bear I once did. I was down 
at Cook's Inlet, washing gold from the beach sand, last year, 
and, a cold snap coming on, we were obliged to close work. 
I had two Indians with me, and as they were anxious to 
make a trip up the bay for some traps, and possibly to get 
some bear meat, they asked me for my Winchester rifle in 
exchange for a large single-shot. I complied, like a fool, 
and one day when I had got l)ack to the cal)in from pros- 
pecting, and it was too early to turn in, I went out and sat 
down not far from the beach to see if there were signs of 
the Indians returning. Suddenly I was thrown into a 


lluttiT by eceiiig- two big brown bears walking leisurely 
along in my direction, not two hundred yards away. I 
crawled along in the grass to the cabin, and got the Indian's 
ritle, putting some extra cartridges in my pocket. I now 
wished for my six-shooter. I crept down towards the bank, 
and, sitting down in a cutting, tried to keep myself cool. 
Presently the nose of one of them came into view, a short 
distance from where I sat, and he saw me, and gave a deep 
angry growl. I had a good shot at his head, and he fell 
in his tracks. Then I started down the beach for the other. 
The report had alarmed him, and he was scampering away. 
I dropped on one knee, took a slow aim, and fired. He 
wavered a bit ;, evidently, the ball had struck home, but he 
turned in around the bank before I could get a second shot. 
I tried to track him, but couldn't, and I concluded he had 
some hidden shelter. I finally turned towards the cabin, 
and put the hammer of the gun down. I had hardly gone 
fifty yards, however, when, rounding the edge of some scrub 
bushes, I came right on the wounded bear, lying in the 
grass. He jumped to his haunches, his mouth streaked 
with foam, his eyes glaring defiance, and his whole air was 
so ferocious, and I had been taken so by surprise, that I have 
to confess I turned and ran. The bear gave instant chase. 
AVhen I had gone some distance I triiD]3ed and fell, and, 
looking back, expecting to see the bear close by, I saw that 
I had gained on him. I recovered my courage, and thought 
that if I fired and missed I would still have time to run 
on. But I waited too long. When he came within a few 
feet he raised himself on his haunches^ and I pulled the 
trigger, but, to my horror, it failed to act. I had, in my 
excitement, forgotten that I had put down the hamnier. 
Before I had time to recover myself he hit me a tennble 

PLAYING 'possum 111 

blow on my left side. Instinctively I turned my face down- 
ward and played 'possum. He came up, sniffed about me, 
clawed me once or twice, and walked off' a little ways. My 
gun had been thrown off somewhere in the grass and was 
out of reach. I lay there for a minute, and finally the bear 
came back and clawed me some more. I was beginning to 
think he was going to turn me over, when I heard a shot, 
and the big bear dropped beside me. The Indians had 
come in just in time. When I got up I found that the blow 
of the bear had torn clear through my clothing and made 
an ugly wound in my side, which was bleeding freely. If 
I hadn't played 'possum I should have been a dead man." 

Every one appreciated the moral of this tale. When 
you are gunning for bear in Alaska, or anywhere else, do not 
go off " half-cocked." There was very little game of this 
sort about here, nor, indeed, is there much anywhere near 
the gold regions. The forest fires started by the Indians 
drive away the good game, and the pest of the mosquitoes 
in the summer is trying -to the bears. In some parts of 
Alaska there is a variety of bear called " silver-tip," which 
is very ferocious, and does not wait to be attacked, but 
attacks on sight. The miners, unless« traveling in groups 
and well armed, give it a wide berth. Though I saw many 
moose tracks while I was on my excursions, I never came 
across one. It usually requires a three or four days' hunt 
to come up with tliem. There are two species of caribou in 
the country; one, the ordinary kind, much resembling the 
reindeer, and the other called a wood caribou, which is a 
much larger and more beautiful animal. The ordinary 
caribou runs in herds and is easily approached, and, when 
fired at, jumps around and is as likely to run towards one 
as from him. At last, when several have been killed, the 


rest will start on a continuous run, and may not stop for 
twenty miles. The Indians kill them in large numbers 
sometimes, even when they have meat enough. They are 
rarely found, I was told, in two successive seasons in the 
same place. 

The mountain sheep which I found around here were 
pure white in color, but otherwise they resemble vers" much 
the gray ones found in the lower latitudes. But they have 
finer horns, more handsomely curved. 



We Name Our Boat the Tar Stater — More Handsome than Adequate 
— Drifting amid Scenes of Wild Grandeur — Magical Vegetation — 
Fifty Mile River — At the Mouth of the Canon — We Conclude to 
Pack Around — Several Boats Go Through — The Trail — An Offer 
to Take the Tar Stater Through for $5 — 1 Am Invited to Ride, 
and Accept — A Quick Repentance — Discarding Gum Boots — A 
Serious Catastrophe — At the Mercy of the Current — Clinging to 
an Overturned Boat — Over Again — Saved — A Four-Minute Ex- 
perience — The Milk is Spilled — Loss of an $800 Outfit — Recovering 
Our Boat — Towards White Horse Rapids — Disappearance of the 
Sugar Saved from the Wreck — I Am Mad — Strapping on My 
Gun — Looking for a Camp Thief — Sympathy for Us — A Phase 
of Yukon Life. 

WHILE I was acting as chief cook and wood-cutter, 
and was making excursions for game in tlie 
country, Joe kept himself busy with the boat, 
and I helped only when it was ready for the caulking. It 
was finished in about ten days, and was a very good speci- 
men, considering the tools we had to work with. I thought 
it looked small for the purpose of carrying our large outfit 
through very rough water, but Joe insisted that it was large 
enough, in spite of the warnings of one of the old-timers. 
But Joe had been over the river as well as the old-timer, 
and he was satisfied, I was a fair swimmer, and I knew 



that I could get out of any place that he could, so 1 kept still. 
We named her the Tar Staler, in honor of Joe's native 
State. Every boat on tlu^ lake had a name, and one could 
see all sorts of clumsy-looking boxes carrying the names of 
all the States in the Union and of prominent men from 
George Washington to Grover Cleveland. 

The ice continued to block the lake, being five or six feet 
deep in places, but the weather suddenly growing warmer, it 
broke and it seemed safe for us to embark. As we piled in 
our effects I saw that the boat was going to be pretty full, 
but Joe persisted that he knew what we wanted, and so off 
we started, w^orking our way through the cakes of ice, and 
finding no very open water till we reached the lower end of 
the lake, which is about twenty miles long. Running out 
from it are long arms, the most prominent of which are 
Windy Arm and Taku Arm, reaching far up between the 
terraced and evergreen hills. The group lies in a depression 
between the coast range and the main range of the Rockies, 
and altogether it is a very picturesque region, abounding in 
striking promontories with a continuous fringe of wooded 
landscape along the banks, and back of them the impressive 
mountains seamed mth little glaciers — gleaming like sil- 
ver ribbons — while, breaking out here and there, little rivu- 
lets leaped down precipitous heights and sometimes rose to 
the dignity of torrents. ]\[ile after mile of wildest grandeur 
glides by like a continuous panorama. 

At the mouth of Windy Lake are three small islands, 
and beyond them tower mountains of limestone and marble, 
and the beach abounds in marble of various colors. When 
we come to a little clear w^ater we find it so transparent that 
we can peer to the bottom of the lake and see the fragments 
of marble scattered about. From the junction of Taku 


Arm, of which little appears to be known, to the north end 
of the lake, the distance is about six miles, and the width 
for the greater part of the way is over two miles. It is a 
line piece of water, but apparently very shallow. 

At the lower end the river issues from it and flows six 
miles to Marsh Lake. It is not more than 150 yards wide, 
and some of the way not more than six feet deep. On its 
bank, about one and a half miles from the lake, the Cana- 
dian police and customs officers are stationed. On the other 
side are the Tagish houses, or council houses of the little 
band of Stick Indians which wander about the lake 
country, and which, until recently, were not allowed by the 
Tlingit tribes to come down to the coast to trade. The 
buildings, though the only ones in the interior of Alaska 
with any pretensions to skill in architecture, are little more 
than rough enclosures, and the natives are exceedingly poor 
specimens of humanity. They have a simple way of dis- 
posing of their dead, and one of their buryiug-places can be 
seen from the river. The departed one is laid on a pile of 
dried logs which have been smeared with grease. A fire is 
then started, but the remains are seldom thoroughly burned, 
only charred, and over this they hold their funeral services, 
which are too complex for the civilized mind. It is their 
delight to go to a funeral, and when they are employed in 
packing for the miners or upper Yukon travelers they will, 
on hearing of a death, at once drop their packs and not re- 
turn till the funeral is over. 

A little distance below the Tagish houses is the entrance 
to Lake Marsh, so named by Schwatka after Prof. O. C. 
Marsh of Yale, but most of the miners call it Mud Lake, 
though there is no good reason for such a name, and it is 
possible that it was originally given to the lower part 


of Tagisli Lake, which is shallow and in places somewhat 
muddy. Lake ]\Iarsh is about twenty miles long and two 
miles wide. Its shores are low, flat, and stony, and the 
waters are shallow. The boat must be kept to the left bank. 
When we went through, it was still full of ice, though it 
was rapidly disappearing under the sun, which was now ap- 
proaching its long summer course. Along the shores the 
vegetation was springing up as if by magic under its con- 
tinuous Vv'armth, while the rivulets formed by the melting- 
snow and glaciers tumbled over the rocks of the hillsides, 
falling in glittering cascades. The surrounding region ap- 
peal's low to us after what we have passed through, but it is 
picturesque in any season, the great terraces rising to high 
ranges on either side and not more than ten miles away. 
Prominent on the east stands ]\Iichie Mountain, five thou- 
sand five hundred and forty feet in height (so named from 
Professor Michie of West Point), and on the west Mounts 
Lome and Lansdowne, six thousand four himdred, and six 
thousand one hundred and forty feet high, respectively. 
Wild fowl are plentiful along the flats, but nothing alive 
abounds like the mosquitoes, which begin to come up in 
swarms from the swamps. 

The traveler finds the names of all the prominent 
features of the landscape of recent origin. ISTothing more 
clearly indicates the newness of the country. Of course 
the natives have long had their names for the prominent ob- 
jects, but they are seldom adopted by explorers. It is easier 
to go over the Chilkoot than to pronounce them as they pro- 
nounce them, for there is nothing in the English language 
sounding like their clicking syllables. 

ISTear the foot of Marsh Lake a stream called McClintock 
Kiver enters, and its valley is but yet little known, though it 


-<P^' ^ 




seems to be large, and it evidently pours in a quantity of the 
dirt that forms the shallows of the lake. The outlet of the 
lake is called Fifty Mile River, and it is here that the descent 
of the Yukon may be said to commence, though it is many 
miles further before the great water course really begins. 
Here the water flows northwesterly through the great valley 
with a current of three miles an hour. From here on we 
had open water, and it was a welcome relief after working 
our way through so many obstacles. But in the springtime 
the banks of the river are constantly caving in and dumping 
trees into the stream, which is shallow in many places. 
Often we had to poke the nose of the Tar Stater out of the 
mud, for in many places the current seemed to ran directly 
over these bai^s. The salmon struggle up to this point, and 
some of the largest are found here in season, but they never 
have the strength to get back, and in the summer large num- 
bers of the dead and dying are found here. 

After a rapid run down this stream, which twists and 
turns like a huge sei-pent in distress, the current becoming 
swifter and swifter, we came out into a wide sweep of the 
river where the water is still and gives little evidence, except 
a dull roar, of the dangers ahead, till the two frowning 
walls of the caiion appear. The river above the canon 
looks about five hundred feet wide, and it is eight or ten 
feet deep. All this has to pour between two bluffs only 
about seventy-five feet apart, and rising in perpendicular 
grandeur for a hundred feet on either side. We found 
many boats along the west bank, and so we landed to take a 
look at what was before us. 

Climbing to the top of the bluff, we gazed down upon 
the mighty current rashing in a perfect mass of milk-whito 
foam with a roar intensified by the high walls of rock. The 


water was boiling through it at such terrific speed that it 
ridged u}) in the center, while along the perpendicular banks 
it whirled in huge eddies which had a very threatening look. 
The clouds of spray gave the water level a snowy appear- 
ance. The caiion is about a mile long, and while we stood 
there we saw several boats go through at the speed of a race- 
horse. But though they bobbed about like chips, they were 
generally managed cleverly, and ran through safely. By 
hard work they were kept in the middle of the channel, but 
occasionally one would get to one side, and be caught in tlie 
eddies, and whirled around past all control. It was then a 
matter of luck if they went through without a mishap, for 
there was the greatest danger of their being dashed against 
the steep basaltic sides and smashed. But while we looked 
all passed safely through, though we could see that some 
shipped considerable water in the big waves. 

" Pretty stiff gallop through there, ain't it? " remarked 
Joe as we turned to go down the bluff". 

" I don't know what you think," said I, " but I know too 
little about managing a boat to nni her safely through there. 
Besides, Joe, the Tar Stater is too heavily loaded to meet 
those waves gracefully." 

So we finally agreed to pack our goods around. The 
portage path is over the east bluff, is about a mile long, and 
the trail is comparatively good. This does not mean that it 
is easy. It leads over a high ridge just the length of the 
canon, and then descends abruptly with a dizzy incline into 
a valley, then, after continuing for some distance along the 
cascades, it ascends a sandy hill. It is very difiicult, for 
many trees had fallen across it so that it resembled crossing 
a lot of hurdles. It leads much of the way through brush 
and wooded patches, where the mosquitoes filled the air and 


made life miserable. One knows how to fight a big enemy, 
bnt a myriad of persistent little ones completely unnerve a 
man. On the first trip I took my clothing, bedding, and 
gnn, and Joe took a one-lnindrcd-ponnd sack of sugar and 
part of a sack of beans. This promised to be a slow process, 
and on our way back, as we saw another boat go through 
safely with a whole outfit in less time than it took us to fix 
a single pack on our backs, Joe began to get braver. 

" I know the Tar IStatcr will ride as well as that coffin 
did," said he. 

Our boat was certainly handsomer than many that went 
through without mishap, but I still clung to the idea that it 
would not be well to try her till she had been lightened 
considerably. When we reached the bank again, we were 
approached by two men who were making it a business to 
take boats through at five dollars each. They wanted to 
take ours. I asked if she ought not to be lightened more, 
but after looking at her critically they said she was all right, 
indeed, was a pretty trim-looking craft. They had taken 
seven through safely that day, and seemed so confident of 
their ability that we made the bargain with them, and, as 
we must give them the same, loaded or empty, we foolishly 
decided to let them take her as she was. It would take two 
days to pack our things around the canon, and as several of 
our camp friends had gone through we wished to keep pace 
with them. One of the men asked me if I would like to 
ride through, and I told them I would not mind if I should 
not be in the way. 

" Jump in," they said, while Joe strolled up to the bluff 
to watch us. 

We pushed off, and in two minutes my heart failed me, 
and I would have given all the gold I ever expected to get in 


these regions had 1 staid out. lleturii was impossible. As 
we rounded the corner, and looked down through the canon, 
I made up my mind that some fine work would be done if the 
Tar ^Stater went through those waves all right. I quickly 
pulled off my gum boots, thinking that if I should need to 
swim I would get along better without those, and then into 
the yawning chasm we shot, drawn by a force nothing could 

There is a popular summer amusement called " Shooting 
the Chutes," very exciting and very exhilarating, I am told. 
A boat-load slides down an incline, and splashes into the 
water. But just imagine a boat hurled along on a ridge of 
water running a mile in three minutes, and twenty times as 
long as your amusing chutes. 

The two men started in to manage the boat cleverly 
enough. 'Not far from the entrance the boat seemed to 
take a fall of several feet, while all the waters in creation 
seemed to have fallen into a space seventy-five feet wide. 
The moment we struck the first high wave we shipped some 
water, at the second we shipped more, at the third it poured 
in around the whole outfit, and at the next we were full, and 
over we went into the ice-cold water with the worst part of 
the canon before us. The boat turned toward the side I 
was occupying, and I sprang out so as to avoid being covered 
up. The moment I struck the water all fear was gone. It 
was easy swimming, for the cuiTcnt took one along whether 
he would or not. 

When the boat came up she was about ten feet from me, 
and it was not easy to reach her, for struggling against the 
current was another matter. Finally I caught hold of the 
stern and climbed up. As I was swept by one of the other 
fellows, I got hold of him and pulled him in so that he could 


clinib up, and a little afterwards the other man was able to 
reach us. There the three of us were riding on the bottom 
of the boat, which was whirling about in the wildest manner. 
As straight as a crow flies runs the canon for an eighth of a 
mile. The roar was like a cannonade. On the top of the 
blufi^'s which fled by us grew dense forests of spruce which 
shut out the sun, and a weird darkness pervaded the deep 
and angry channel. The boat shot forward with lightning 
speed, leaping like a racer or bucking like a mustang, now 
buried out of sight in the foam, and now plunged beneath 
a terrific wave. We clung desperately to the bottom as 
helpless as flies. 

A moment later we came to the worst place in the cur- 
rent, where there are three heavy swells, and where those 
who are steering boats through incline a little to the left to 
avoid the roughest part. But the current was steering us, 
and into the swells we dived. The waters swept us from the 
slippery keel as if we had been so many leaves. Again we 
struggled in the current, and again we caught on to the 
whirling boat, for after the swells the water became 
smoother, and in a twinkling we shot out of the canon like 
a rocket, amid the reefs of boulders and bars thickly 
studded with drifts of timber. Two men were waiting at 
the foot of the bluffs in a boat, and when they saw us come 
out they rowed after us and took us in. Thus we left the 
Tar ^ifcr. 

I had looked at my watch, which fortunately I carried 
in a rubber sack in my pocket, when I got into the 
boat at the upper end, and I looked again as we climbed into 
the boat which had cojue to our rescue, and saw that we had 
had a little over four minutes of experience. 'Some of the 
boats o'o throuch in three minutes. 


Wet and shivcriiic:, 1 sat down on a rock on the bank and 
felt very blue. Ten minutes before we had boasted the best 
outfit that any two men we had seen were bringing in; 
everything we would need for the next eighteen months. 
It was worth over $800, according to the way things sold in 
Alaska, and we had lost very many things which could not 
be bought on the Yukon. All we had left was the sack of 
sugar and a few beans; nothing to cook them in. We had 
no tent to sleep in, and we were two hundred and fifty miles 
from Juneau and five hundred miles from the nearest trad- 
ing post down the river. 

As I sat there Joe came dow^i with a grim expression on 
his face. He had stood on the bluff and had seen us go 
under. He knew^ now that we had been too heavily loaded. 

" The Tar l^tater is down yonder somewhere," I said, 
with a despondent gesture towards the rushing river. I 
thought I would not be rough on the poor fellow. 

" Well, the milk is spilled," he said, giving the forlorn 
bag of beans a kick. 

" And this region doesn't flow with milk and honey," I 

We walked along down the river, and about a mile and a 
half below^ we found the Tar Stater, bottom up, and her 
nose tucked into a crack in the rocks by the bank in such a 
manner as to be held fast. She was somewhat strained, and 
needed recaulking. We dragged her up to the rocks, and 
Joe looked at her mournfully. I could not withstand the 

" The Tar ^^tater is a dandy in rough water," I said, 
and I could see that Joe was badly hurt. Then I was sorry, 
and tried to make amends by saying that she would have 
gone through with flying colors had we only taken the pre- 


caution to carry part of the load arovind the caiion. " She 
is too trim for heavy work," I added. 

On the next day a boat was overturned in running 
through, and two men were drowned. It was a sad ending 
to the hard voyage of two gold-seekers, but all along the 
river are the little marks which tell of similar cases. There 
were several parties camped at the lower end of the canon, 
including some of the friends we had made at Lake Tagish. 
They were very kind to us, so that we managed very com- 
fortably while we were getting our boat ready. This did 
not take much time, and, having secured a set of oars, we 
loaded in all that remained of our costly outfit and pro- 
ceeded down the river. 

Below the canon there is a stretch of somewhat milder 
rapids, or cascades, for nearly three miles, and then after a 
little smooth water we arrived at the White Horse Rapids, 
which are justly considered more dangerous than the canon, 
but it is less on account of the swift current than of the 
formation of the passage, it being full of sunken rocks. It 
is, on the whole, the worst piece of water on the Yukon, and 
no one should ever attempt to take their outfit through. Of 
course, we were no longer hampered in this way. 

In coming up to these rapids one must land on the west 
bank, which is formed of steep rocks, and the place is very 
difficult cither for managing a boat, or for getting a burden 
up to the portage. Many drag their boats over the trail, 
l)ut it is difficult work and requires several men to pull a 
loaded boat around in a day. To get the boats up over the 
rocks the miners had constructed a crude windlass. But 
most of those on the way with us determined to caiTy their 
goods around, and then shoot the rapids in empty boats. 

We lined the Tar >itater down the side, and then went 


up to wnti'li ]n'()ceedings and to lit'lji one of tlie other boys 
down with his boat. We were gone some little time, and 
when we returned to our boat the sack of sugar was missing. 
I was mad. Some villain had stolen the most valual)le part 
of the provisions w'e had saved from the wreck; that was 
about all we had left of that eight-hundred-dollar outfit. 
I strapped on my six-shooter and went hunting for that 
sugar with a vengeance. Theft is one of the worst crimes 
a man can commit in this country, and it is not common. 
Only tcnderfeet who have not outgrown the privileges of 
life in civilized regions will dare commit it. Generally, 
anything can be left with perfect safety on the trails, provid- 
ing it is out of the reach of dogs. There are no storehouses, 
and traveling necessitates leaAdng articles of value all along 
the route. Traveling would be impossible but for a rigid 
regard for other people's property. It is the unwa-itten law 
of the land, and it comes as naturally to the Indians as to 
any one. Morose, superstitious, utterly ungrateful, and 
never to be believed, these Indians rarely touch a thing that 
belongs to any one else. They will leave their own belong- 
ings all along the trail, and they will be often passed, but 
no one thinks of touching them. They know they will be 
there when they return. 

I knew it was some white man who had taken the sugar, 
and I went through the boats with fire in my eye. It would 
have been easy to find it had it been there, but it was not. 
On the other hand, everybody was in perfect sympathy with 
my attempt to find the thief, and if he had been found they 
tvould liave given liim, then and there, wdiat, in the ])arlance 
of the Yukon, is called a " jig-in-air " at the end of a rope. 
It was lucky, perhaps, that I did not find him, for I was in a 
dangerous mood. I could have shot him dead and no one 


would have said a word against it. I should have been criti- 
cised if I had failed to. 

Two or three boats had gone on through the rapids, and 
the thief had evidently taken the sack just as he was putting 
off, in the expectation of escaping safely. It would not 
have been so serious had he taken something from a party 
that was well-stocked with provisions, but taking it from 
us who had lost nearly everything but that, was sufficient 
to raise the indignation of the whole camp to the boiling 
point. The fellows offered us all we wanted. We suf- 
fered for nothing. We could make ourselves at home in 
any tent there. 

There are some rare qualities in the rough breasts of the 
pilgrims of the Yukon, a consideration for the condition of 
others which is not always found in a softer climate and in 
an easier life. 



Through the White Horse Rapids in an Empty Boat — Close Shave for 
tlie Tar Stater — Rough to Experience but Interesting to Watch — 
Overtaking Three Boats — I find the Sack of Sugar and tlie Thief 
— Swift Preparations for a Lynching Bee — "Say the Word and Up 
He Goes " — I Refuse — " Nothing Less Than Fifty Lashes, Then " — 
I Administer Them on the Thief's Bare Back — The Victim Becomes 
a Good Citizen — Lake Lebarge and Tagish Indians — Eggs for a 
Change — In the Twilight of the Midnight — Nature in Her Great 
Work — Cutting Down Hills and Valleys — Where Eagles Nest — 
Twisting and Turning — Five Fingers — Rink Rapids — Arrival at 
Fort Selkirk — A Touch of Civilization — The Route Marked with 
Graves of the Fallen — Reflections on the Journey. 

THERE were, as I remember, six boats witb ours at 
the entrance of Wliite Horse Rapids, and we all 
went throngh in safety, but it was a thrilling ex- 
perience. We were swept along over the raging torrent, 
which here and there throws white spray into the air, a 
fact from which the rapids take their name. The foaming 
waves seem to come from every direction. Ragged rocks 
liang over the passage, the current sncking in under them, 
and at times we could have reached up and touched the 
rocks with our hands had we cared to. We had too much 
to do for amusement of that kind. The rapids extend 
straight away for nearly a quarter of a mile, and then take 



an abrupt turn to the right. It is after passing the turn 
tliat the most dangerous part is encountered. 

With a stream that is two hundred yards wide, full of 
ugly boulders, coupled with a fall of two hundred feet in 
five-eighths of a mile, it is no wonder that this stretch of river 
has become the terror of Alaskan gold-hunters. If the cur- 
rent in the canon appeared to speed along with the swiftness 
of an arrow, that in the rapids seemed to equal the flight of 
a swift bird. The last hundred yards of the journey was 
particularly dangerous. At the spot called the " White 
Horse " the waters tumbled and tossed in most fantastic 
fashion, piling up the spray in long white columns ten or 
twelve feet high. There is a sheer fall of nine feet at that 

'' Joe, we're goners sure," I shouted, holding on in terror. 
But the Tar Stater took the plunge in a way that gladdened 
our hearts. True, it seemed that we would never come 
up; and, when we did, it looked as though we would 
never come down. Into the air the bow went, and when 
the boat again struck the water flew over us in a torrent. 
We thought that the next moment would see the Tar 
Stater sink, but she did not. I think it was the swiftness of 
the current that kept her afloat. At any rate, we reached 
shore safely, but wet through to the skin. If anybody 
imagines that shooting the White Horse Rapids is easy or 
pleasant he is very much mistaken. 

There may be some pleasure in boasting of having shot 
these fearful Avaters, but it is the height of folly to run the 
risk. Many go through safely in empty boats, but they are 
at the mercy of as angry a bit of water as there is in Alaska, 
and there are a great many such places. The summer before 
we went through, it was said that thirteen persons lost their 


lives there, and all because they preferred to take the risk 
than to drag the boat around. It requires but a minute or 
so to shoot through, but days to get an outfit around. 

Terrible as is the experience, there are few places more 
sublime to the view. Standing on the bank in safety, the 
eye is charmed by the waters that leap and foam around 
the highly-colored rocks. You may watch it for hours 
and turn away with regret, and if the eye wanders off it 
rests on the somber stretches of trees, in their varying colors, 
the luxuriant grass, and the tundra, while standing like 
ghostly sentinels over all are the snowy peaks in the dis- 
tance. Everything is on a grand scale, and one acquires a 
faint realization of what this planet must have been in those 
untrimmed, uncut, glacial times when the earth was dotted 
^^'ith raging waters like these, and mammoths stalked or 
crawled about the gloomy hillsides. 

Below the rapids the river flows swiftly on for several 
miles, much of the time between gravel banks, but the 
water is smooth, the banks one hundred and fifty yards 
apart, and no obstacles except bars appear; so we made good 
progress. The current becomes less and less as the river 
turns northward through the same wide valley. The Ijluffs 
along the bank are of white silt, which gives a cloudy yellow 
tint to the waters. About thirteen miles down we come to 
the mouth of the Tahkheena River, a muddy stream about 
seventy-five yards wide, flowing in from the west. Its 
sources are near the Chilkat Pass, and its waters flow through 
a large body of water named Arkell Lake, not far from the 
Dalton trail. Tt is said to have been formerly used by the 
Chilkat Indians in reaching the interior, but now it is 
seldom used, though its waters are said to be navigable from 
the head of the lake down. 

"hang the man who steals anything!" 131 

Onr little party of six or seven boats kept close together 
as we drifted down the rapid stream, and, towards evening, 
as we were looking along the banks for a good place to camp, 
we came upon three boats and a little camp back from the 
bank. I had not forgotten the sngar; neither had the 
others. We disembarked with assnmed indifference, bnt 
I immediately raised some consternation by going through 
the boats. In one of them I found a sack of sugar. 

In less that a minute that boat and the man claiming 
it were covered with a dozen guns, but I was somewhat 
surprised to see my friends put a rope around his neck and 
lead him struggling towards a tree. The day before, when 
I was boiling with rage, I might not have said a word. I 
knew how heinous the crime of theft was considered in 
Alaska. But now I was somewhat taken aback by the 
swiftness with which my friends proposed to mete out jus- 
tice. The man could say nothing. He was badly fright- 
ened, and those who had been with him on the bank made 
no protest; and, if they had, we were too many for them. 

The rope was thrown over the limb of a neighboring 
tree, and a half a dozen men caught hold of it ready to pull. 

" Hold on a minute, boys," I said. " It strikes me it's 
pretty tough to hang a man for stealing a sack of sugar." 

'' Hang the man who steals anything! " said one of the 
old timers. 

" But I don't want to be too cruel on the fellow," I re- 
])licd. " He may know better next time." 

The poor fellow was trembling like a leaf. His face 
was ghastly pale, and he looked at me with beseeching eyes. 

" Wal, it's your sugar," said one of the men, " and all 
you've got to do is to say the word and up he goes." 

" I won't do it," said I. " Settle it some other way." 


" He's got to be punished somehow," said the old-timer, 
in a determined tone, " and, if yon don't want to have him 
pulled up, you'll have to give him the lash. We sometimes 
does that." 

" All right," I said, knowing that some form of punish- 
ment would certainly have to be administered. 

So they made him take off his clothes down to his bare 
back, tied his hands together, and swung him up so that his 
toes barely touched the ground. 

" Kothin' less than fifty lashes," said the old-timer, 
handing me a piece of rope. So I began to lay it on, and 
the more I did so, the more T began to think he deser\'ed it. 
He stood it remarkably well, but finally began to cry w^itli 
pain, and I stopped. 

" Xothin' less than fifty," shouted the old-timer. 

So I kept on till the number Avas reached. It was a 
pretty tough-looking back he had when I finished, and he 
drew^ his shirt on with the greatest care. 

I came to know that man very well later on. Strange 
as it may appear, we grew to be friends, and he made a good 
citizen of Alaska. I never knew of his again taking a thing 
belonging to another. These primitive methods of punish- 
ment are quite effectual, after all. There would be fewer 
burglars and sneak thieves in the States if the lash were 
used publicly, instead of the so-called enlightened method 
of retiring them to a rather agreeable life in a prison, to 
which they take their own evil natures, and w'here they 
exchange lessons in criminality with their prison associates. 

Proceeding a few miles further, we arrived at Lake Le- 
barge, which lies nearly north and south, surrounded by 
mountains, those on the southeast presenting very abrupt 
and castellated forms, with summits of white limestone. It 


is tliirty-one miles long with an average breadth of nearly 
five miles. Its southern half is somewhat wider, but then 
it narrows down to about two miles for a distance of about 
seven miles, and at the north end expands to about four 
miles again. The western shore is indented with shallow 
little bays. Just before reaching the place where it nar- 
rows there is a large island, the southern end flat, with gravel 
banks, and the other end rocky. The rocks are a bright 
red, and makes a very pretty picture against the other colors 
along the shore. 

The lake is about two thousand feet above the sea-level, 
and we found it rough sailing most of the time, though the 
wind held in our direction. Its rough w^ater is usually 
dreaded by miners, who sometimes are forced to camp on its 
banks for several days, till the wind goes down. The whole 
valley seems to be a great trough, sucking inland the south- 
erly winds, which are apt to prevail in the summer montlis. 

It is a favorite spot for the Tagish Indians, exceedingly 
filthy and degraded creatures, who will bargain almost any- 
thing they have for a little whisky, for which they have 
acquired a taste through the expanding trade of our Chris- 
tianized countries. The missionaries came at the same time, 
but their efforts have little effect on them. To them, the 
greatest importation of civilization is " fire-water." 

We made good progress on Lake Lebarge, in spite of its 
roughness. Other names have been given this body of 
water, and the Indians have one of their own. Its common 
name is derived from one Mike Lebarge, who not many 
years ago was engaged by the Western LTnion Telegra]ih 
Company, exploring the river and adjacent country for the 
purpose of connecting Europe and America by a telegraph 
line overland, except for the short distance at Bering Strait. 


The days had become so long by this tiiiie that we could 
travel nearly all the time, stopping only now and then for 
a square meal. It will be difiicult for anyone who has not 
been in the Arctic regions to form a good idea of the pictur- 
esque features of a sail along one of these lakes at this time 
of year. The shore of the large lake is fringed with a line 
of trees, which stretch back over the low hills, but over the 
tops of these trees towers the white line of mountains miles 
away. And above these mountains is the canopy of heaven. 
Around this circles the blazing sun, hour after hour. One 
does not realize what a relief the darkness is till he comes to 
a region like this, at a time when there is no darkness. 

On we drifted, over the ruffled waters, taking a cold 
lunch when hungry, but without any adequate realization 
of the time of day, unless we looked at our watches. Finally 
the sun set, and Venus was the only star which became 
dimly visible in the twilight of midnight. 

About half way down the lake is a large bare rock, 
where flocks of gulls make their home. Eggs are a great 
luxury in Alaska, and we laid in as good a supply as we 
could and feasted on them for several days. One can 
scarcely appreciate the amount of pleasure there is in in- 
stituting a little variety in Alaskan diet, for the appetite 
knows no bounds, and the staple food is extremely limited 
in variety. Besides, since the loss of our outfit we had been 
obliged to use our money to buy what stores the others could 
spare, though they were very kind, and would have given 
us food at any time had we asked it. I kept my eyes on the 
shore most of the time, in the hopes of seeing game, and 
although I found enough to ]irovide us with many good 
meals, I could not fail to notice that it was becoming more 
and more scarce. 


The Lewis river, as it flows out of tlie lake, is about two 
hundred yards wide, and for about five miles preserves this 
width, and a swift current of from four to six miles an hour. 
It then makes a sharp turn about a low gravel point, and 
flows for a mile in a direction opposite to its general course, 
when again it sharply resumes its way nortliAvard. Twenty- 
seven miles down we come to a great tributary from the 
southeast, the Teslin Eiver, as it is now called, as it drains 
the great Teslin Lake; but tlie miners call it by its Indian 
name, the Hootalinkwa. Schwatka called it the I^ewberry, 
and Dr. Dawson had given it the name of Teslintoo; from 
which it appears that names in Alaska are sometimes uncer- 
tain, and time alone will tell which name will prevail. We 
were told by the Indians that gold could be found on this 
stream, but few explorations of it appeared to have been 

The water of the Teslin is of dark brown color. In- 
deed, one cannot fail to notice, at least in the spring of the 
year, the amount of dirt these streams are carrying down. 
It is another feature of a fact that strikes a traveler at every 
point, the immense amount of work that Nature is doing 
in these regions. The country in the section we have re- 
cently passed is extremely mountainous, with torrents plung- 
ing down througli the rough valleys from the eternal snows. 
The water in the lakes appears to be remarkably clear, but 
as soon as we touch any of the connecting streams we notice 
that they are so full of sediment that one cannot see an 
jnch below the surface. 

If a basinful is taken out and allowed to stand until it 
clears, a thick deposit of mud is found at the l)ottom. The 
current boils and flows very rapidly, and as the boat glided 
along a sound was heard almost like that of frying fat. It 

130 nature's forces in action 

was onlv the constant friction on the boat of the immense 
amount of large particles of earth whieli the water was carry- 
ing in suspension. This is noticeable all along the river, and 
is an indication of the wearing-down process that is con- 
stantly going on in this great country. It furnishes the 
reason for the shifting bars which exist on the lower Yukon, 
and for the difficulties that prevail at its mouth. AVhen time 
has done its work, the shores of x\laska, about the mouth 
of its great river, will be pushed out much further into the 

As we proceeded down the ri^^'er we easily saw whence 
comes all this material. Along the silt and sand bluffs, 
loose material is constantly falling into the stream. These 
little landslides, occurring all the time, except in the months 
when everything is frozen, result in an immense amount of 
dirt being dumped into the river. We should be surprised 
if it w^ere measured. I had read how ISTature worked 
through countless ages, l»ut I never realized the extent, the 
capability of the mighty forces, till I took that first trip down 
the upper Yukon region. But while we see Xature work- 
ing in an earlier process than that to which we are accus- 
tomed, one is appalled to think how long she has been work- 
ing even here. For all those mighty canons which we have 
seen, and through some of which we have barely escaped 
with our lives, have been worn out by the torrents. These 
great rocks and boulders, which fill the stream and around 
which the swift current plays, have been rolled down from 
the mountains by the receding glaciers. 

"\Ye found these huge boulders a great obstacle all the 
way down this part of the river. Sometimes it was all we 
both could do to handle the boat. The current would carrv 
us against them before we could stop it, but we managed 


much better than some of our friends with headed boats. 
Many of them bumped into the rocks, and one man lost 
nearly half his outfit. 

About thirty-three miles below the mouth of the Teslin 
River the Big Salmon pours into the Lewis. Thirty-four 
miles more and we come to the Little Salmon, which is sixty 
yards wide at its mouth, and is shallow. Here the valley 
becomes so broad that no mountains are in sight, only low 
hills, at a distance from the bank. The Lewis makes a 
turn to the southwest, and after running six miles it turns 
again to the northwest; then, at the end of seven miles, to 
the southwest again, around a low, sandy point. Thus we 
proceeded for twenty miles or more, without gaining more 
than five in our northern course. The first turn is around 
Eagle's Nest Eock, wdiich stands up on the slope of the 
eastern bank, and in it is a huge cavern, where it is said gray 
eagles rear their young. It is composed of light gray stone 
and rises fully five hundred feet above the river. 

About thirty miles further on, another river, the jSTor- 
denskiuld, draining a chain of lakes far to the westward, 
empties into the Le^vis, which continues its course with a 
width of from two hundred to three hundred yards, occa- 
sionally expanding as it flows around little islands. Its 
course is very crooked, and near the mouth of the ISTordens- 
kiold it winds under a hill, and away from it several times, 
once for a distance of eight miles, and after making all 
these turns it has gained but a mile. From this the river 
flows on in a straight course to the Five Finger Rapids. 

We did not stop to look at this place, but ran right in, 

and soon were bobbing about like a chip on the whirling 

current. It is a cataract of ferocious mien, but not at all 

dangerous, as a boat can. be easily kept away from the haz- 



anions points. As in the (irand canon, the water rolls away 
from the sides and is ridged in the center. Just before 
entering the rapids there is a whirlpool, which is studiously 
avoided, though it is not dangerous. If a boat gets caught 
in it she is liable to be whirled about in it for some tune be- 
fore being released. 

The current continues very rapid for six miles below 
Five Fingers, so-named because of the five large rocks 
standing in mid-channel, and then we began to hear the 
roar of the Rink Rapids. They make a great deal of noise, 
but are not dangerous, as the only obstruction is on the west 
side, where the water pours over the rocks. On the east 
side the current is smooth and the water deep, and a boat 
can run through without the slightest difficulty. 

For fifty-eight miles, the distance between the Five- 
Finger Rapids and the place where the Pelly River unites 
with the Lewis and forms the great Yukon, no streams of 
any importance appear. The river continues through a 
pleasant landscape for the whole distance without the slight- 
est indication of civilization. About a mile below the rapids 
the stream spreads out, and many little islands appear. We 
passed in and out among these islands for about three miles, 
when the liver contracted to its usual width, but islands 
and bars were common all the way, and the current is about 
five miles an hour. 

After passing a long bank called Hoochecoo Bluff, the 
river again spreads out into a very archipelago. For three 
or four miles it is nearly a mile from bank to bank, but so 
close and numerous are the little islands that it is often diffi- 
cult to tell where the shores of the river are. 

At the confluence of the Pelly and the Lewis the 
country is low, with extensive terraced flats, running back 


to rounded liills and ridges. The Pelly is about two 
hundred yards wide at its mouth, and from here these great 
w^aters flow swiftly on in an uninterrupted course one 
thousand six hundred and fifty miles to the Bering Sea. 

The Yukon, below the junction, averages about a quar- 
ter of a mile wide, with a current which carries everything 
swiftly along. It is dotted by many little islands, and we 
quickly came to the ruins of old Fort Selkirk, a trading post 
which was established by the Hudson Bay Company in 
1848. Indians pillaged and set fire to it in 1853, leaving 
nothing but the remains of two chimneys, which are still 
standing. The place has been put to some later uses, how- 
ever, an English church mission and an Indian village being- 
established there, and for some time Arthur Harper, whom 
we have already mentioned as a pioneer in these regions, 
maintained a trading post there. 

Here we were enabled to use some of the money we 
had brought along in case of emergency, and which we had 
saved by packing our goods, in the purchase of new sup- 
plies, but it did not enable us to put in all we could wish, 
for goods are high after they have been brought up the long 
Yukon. But we were glad to have a tent again, and some 
articles which are a prime necessity in such a country. We 
felt as if w^e had again come in touch with civilization. 

We had made good time from the lakes and were in good 
health, but it had been a long, hard voyage, and it always 
will be, in any time of the year, till modern methods of 
communication have overcome some of the terrible ob- 
stacles. All along the route wo had noted the graves of 
those who have been lost in previous years on this route. 
Both Indians and white men have fallen in the struggle 
to press into the gregt valley of the Yukon by the Dyea 


trail. Ami avc licai'd of others, besides tlie two drowned 
in the canon, who lost their lives that same spring in wdiich 
we came in. One man was killed in the Five Finger rapids, 
bnt fJoe and I were safe at last on the waters of the mighty 
river, and he avIio will never stop to think of an overruling 
Providence in the feverish rush of life in the busy centers 
of the United States, mnst in these immense regions, where 
he feels so small, where he finds so little to measnre him- 
self by, feel a sense of gratitnde filling his whole being as 
lie stands strong and imhnrt at the end of such a voyage. 



Tlie Latest News — The Swift Yukon and Its Branches — The Upper 
Ramparts — White River and Its Probable Sources — Stewart River 
and the Tales of Indians — Reports of Prospectors — Sixty Mile 
Creek — Passing the Mouth of the Troan-Dik or Klondike — Its 
Various Names and How They Were Obtained — A Peep at the 
Moose Pasture — Moose Skin Mountain — Old Fort Reliance — Forty 
Mile and Its Institutions — Justice as Administered at Miners' 
Meetings — A Little German's Trouble — French Joe's Experience 

— A Tailor and His Bill — The Canadian Police — A Plague of 
Mosquitoes — How They Operate and How Their Bites Work — 
Old Pharaoh's Troubles Not a Circumstance — What Miners Suffer 

— No Preventive Sufficient — Tough Miners Sit and Cry — More 
Indian Tales — Bears and Dogs in a Frenzy — Frost Comes as a 

THERE were many inquiries at the trading post as to 
the news of the day. TvTot having been burdened 
witli a heavy outfit after leaving the canon, we 
were among the first to put in an appearance at the post that 
spring. In the winter montlis tlie posts along the Yukon 
are practically cut off from civilization, and they can only 
imagine what is happening as the world moves rapidly on. 
No hermit is so secluded. But naturally we had little of 
recent date to tell. Nearly three months had elapsed since 
we had set out from Snn Francisco. Joe, who took more in- 
terest in political affairs than I did, in reply to many (pies- 



tions narrated to eager listeners events on the Pacitic coast 
wliicli had then receded into the forgotten past. An okl 
newspaper which we had bronght in, wrapped about some 
of my clothing, was read with all tlie eagerness with which 
a starving man would eat. This serves to sho\v how remote 
Alaska is from the world most of the year. 

We were still about three hundred and eighty miles from 
Circle City, to which we were destined, and which was then 
the center of the mining interest in this great territory. So 
with our new supplies and a few tools needed by t!ie pros- 
pector, we resumed our way. Below the fort and for a dis- 
tance of ninety-six miles to the mouth of the White River, 
the Yukon maintains its width of from four to six hundred 
yards, and its course is a little north of west. The current 
continues swift, over four miles an liour on the surface, and 
so numerous are the little islands that there is no part of the 
river where one or more cannot be seen. Gravel bars 
abound, but cause no trouble. It is a broad, majestic, 
hurrying river, displaying some of the grandest views eyes 
ever beheld. 

We drifted on with but few stops, and those were brief. 
It made no difference whether it was night or day — it was 
nearly all daylight then. The circling sun would dip be- 
hind the hills or the bluffs along the river for a little while, 
and a sort of twilight would fall on the majestic scene, the 
heat would suddenly disappear, and for a couple of hours 
the frost in the ground would fill the air with a cold moist- 
ure. Then the sun would come up again, and for twenty 
hours pour its blazing heat on the broad valley. Under its 
influence the grass rises to phenomenal height, and so bright 
a green is seldom seen. All day long, and night, too, birds 
W'ith unfamiliar voices were singing about us, seeming to 


Entrance to the canon. Two Klondikers with heavy packs making their 
way on foot through the deep snow. 


mock the trials of mankind and tlieir greedy rush for gold, 
and occasionally we caught sight of a bit of game — a 
moose too far away for us to reach, or a duck, too hard a shot 
for me with a rifle. Had we possessed the proper weapon 
w^e could have feasted on ducks and geese. They are very 
plentiful, and every Yukon man should have a shotgun. 
We stopped upon the banks but little, never except for a 
substantial meal, for the mosquitoes make camp life an ex- 
cruciating experience. Joe slept while I managed the 
boat; and then he took his turn at the oar, and I would catch 
a nap. 

Upper Ramparts is one of the most picturesque places 
in Alaska. Steep basaltic bluffs tower like monster cathe- 
drals along the banks. The lights and shadows work unique 
effects among their rocks, standing out like minarets from 
the walls. 

About thirty miles below the fort a little stream called 
Selwyn River enters the Yukon from the south. Good tim- 
ber abounds in its valley, and we saw men getting out the 
logs ready to float down the river to places where they are 
needed for houses. White River comes in from the west 
about seventy miles further on, and after the Yukon has re- 
sumed its northerly course. It is a powerful river, about 
two hundred yards wide at its mouth, and it plunges down 
loaded with silt over ever-shifting bars, the main channel 
being not more than a hundred yards in width. The current 
is not less than ten miles an hour, and its name is derived 
from the milky ajDpearance of its waters. With numerous 
other creeks so much easier to ascend, this river has been 
neglected by prospectors, and its source is somewhat prob- 
lematical, though the Indians say that it rises far inland 
near an active volcano. For aught that may be known, the 


richest gold fields in the world may lie near the sources of 
this great Avatercourse so turbid and rapid at its mouth. 

Between AVhite and Stewart rivers, ten miles, the 
Yukon spreads out to a mile in width, and is a maze of 
islands and bars between wonderful banks. 

The Stewart River enters from the east through the 
middle of a wide valley; the current is slow and the water 
dark colored. While camping here for a brief space we 
encountered a small party of miners who had been pros- 
pecting on the river above. They had found considerable 
gold on the bars, and were returning for provisions, but 
they told us that it would depend upon how other points on 
the river turned out whether they returned to the Stewart. 
They had done most of their digging in the bars along the 
river, and had not explored the creeks running into it. 

The current above, they told us, is swift, and it is neces- 
sary to pole boats up the stream. The banks for some dis- 
tance from the mouth are steep and uninviting. Further 
up they found bars and the river bottom covered with grass. 
They had been compelled to go into camp about forty miles 
up, because of high w^ater, and, while there, had found 
plenty of game, including moose and bear. The fish w^ere 
also good. They said that on some of the upper bars they 
had found gold which yielded over twenty dollars per day, 
but they found the digging was irregular because of the 
high water at times. From what information they had 
acquired from the Indians, who declined to ascend the river, 
there exists a very savage tribe of Indians, holding the coun- 
try around its sources. They are at war with the other 
Indians lower down, occupying a stronghold in a moun- 
tainous wilderness, and they will not permit any white man 
or other Indian to enter their territory. They make their 


living" by Imnting, occasionally bringing their fnrs down to 
the trading points, getting gnns and such ether things as 
they desire in return. These Indians, it is said, are met 
about two hundred miles up the river. But there are few 
things more unreliable than Indian stories. White pros- 
pectors have not met these Indians in their explorations. 
At some time they may have existed there, thus giving 
ground for the tradition. The prospectors had no informa- 
tion which could tempt us to turn aside, and we concluded 
to waste no time on the river. 

About twenty-three miles below the Stewart a small 
stream enters from the west, called Sixty-Mile Creek. We 
are now in the region of the miners. This stream has been 
prospected all the way to its sources, and gold had been 
found nearly everywhere, but not in rich quantities except 
on two creeks. A few miners were working there. For 
some time after the discovery of Miller and Glacier creeks 
the diggings there were considered the richest in the region, 
but the more recent discoveries on Birch Creek had drawn 
the miners in that direction, and the year before a rich spot 
called Mosquito Creek, an appropriate name for any creek 
in the river, had been discovered running into Forty Mile 
River. At the time we came into the regions this creek 
was making the sensation. 

So we pushed on, passing Indian River, a stream 
destined to gain great notoriety, but then considered of no 
particular account. A little further on we passed another 
stream about forty yards wide at its mouth, which emptied 
into the Yukon from the east. The Indians called it Troan- 
T)ik, or Thron-Diuck. As to how the Indian appellation of 
this stream should be spelled, and what it means, there is 
considerable uncertainty, which, however, is not strange 


considering" the difficnlty of putting into Englisli characters 
anything which an Indian pronounces, and the further dif- 
ficulty of securing from an Indian of these parts an intel- 
ligible idea of what he means by anything he says in his own 
language. According to some, the name of this river means 
'' water full of fish." According to others, it takes its name 
from the fact that, the stream being swift, the Indians have 
to set their salmon traps or nets by driving in stakes with a 
hammer, and so they gave it the name Troan-Dik or Ham- 
mer Creek. The sure thing about it is that it seems to have 
something to do with fish. The miners, probably in an 
effort to cast into phonetic English the Indian pronuncia- 
tion, had in 1896 fallen in the habit of calling it Cluned^'ke. 
It should be remembered that when one of the natives of 
this region pronounces one of his words he does it as if he 
were doing his best to strangle himself with it, and the effect 
is as if he just barely escaped doing it. 

In 1883, when Schwatka rafted down the Yukon, he 
camped at the mouth of this stream, and according to his re- 
ports he found that the traders called it Deer Creek " from 
the large number of caribou or woodland reindeer seen in 
its valley at certain times of their migrations." The valley 
looked as though it might abound in moose and caribou, and 
for years it had been a fa^'orite fishing ground for the In- 
dians Avho were waiting for the salmon to run up. 

AVe floated by in blissful ignorance of what lay under 
the tundra of its creeks, and no one would have suspected 
that in a few weeks there would be a lively city on 
the swamp near its mouth, and that a pushing civilization 
would have transformed the Indian's Troan-Dik and the 
miner's Clunedyke into Klondike, a word which philologic- 
ally means absolutely nothing except that your practical 


civilization does about as it pleases in naming things, and 
that when it does it that ends the matter. 

The Indian name for one of the landmarks near the 
month of the stream is, when translated to the best of hnman 
ability, Moose-Skin Monntain, a name that is likely to ad- 
here to it, nnless at some time some one finds something 
there except the monntain, and practical civilization takes 
liberties with the native appellation. 

I conld not fail to notice as we floated past this region, 
the river being qnite narrow here, its inviting aspect for 
hnnters and fishermen, and but for the fact that we were 
now anxious to arrive at the center of the gold diggings we 
might have stopped a day to see what we could bag in this 
moose pasture. 

Proceeding on, we passed old Fort Reliance, an old 
private trading post of no great present importance, the 
stream flowing in from the east called by Schwatka the 
Chandindu, and a little over thirty miles further we come 
to Forty Mile, which for years had been considered one of 
the richest sections in the territory, and had been one of the 
chief attractions to those who had braved the difficnlt trails 
from the coast. 

Joe and I landed here, and for the first time entered into 
the vortex of white civilization on the Yukon. Forty Mile 
contained nearly a hundred log buildings, and such are the 
most palatial residences in Alaska. Some of them had cost 
over ten thousand dollars, for even logs are dear here, 
though they are so abundant. The town is situated on the 
south side of Forty Mile River at its junction with the 
Yukon, and the Alaska Commercial Company has a station 
here which was located by McQuestcn shortly after gold 
had been found on the creeks above. It is in the British 


Territory, and a few of the mounted police were at hand, 
bnt the diggings are mostly located across the border line, 
which crosses the stream about twelve miles from its mouth. 
The best mines are sixty miles up stream, but Forty ]\Iile is 
the headquarters. At this time it was the second place in 
size on the river, contained a sawmill, several blacksmith 
shops, restaurants, billiard halls, saloons and dance halls, of 
course, and a few bakeries. It also contained an opera 
house, and here, a little later, we found some of the women 
who had come over the pass with us singing the same old 
songs we had heard at San Trancisco, and had heard once 
in awhile during the journey. They had had a hard time 
of it, but they received " big money " for the display of 
their talents. It is one of the peculiarities of mining- 
regions that much of the gold goes to those who do not 
dig it. 

At the time we were at Forty Mile, miners' meetings 
as a means of settling disputes were being brought into dis- 
repute. For a long time they had answered very well, as 
the miners in the district were few and acquainted with each 
other. But as the influx of all elements began with the re- 
ports of discoveries on Forty Mile River, and saloons in- 
creased in number, disputes became more frequent, and 
miners' meetings became a mere burlesque. We heard of 
several cases which had been thus tried. In one instance, a 
poor little German was passing quietly along the street one 
day, and a big ruffian, who rather prided himself on his 
capabilities as a bully, drew out and stnick the little man a 
blow that paralyzed him. He was powerless to help him- 
self; he could not match his strength against that of his as- 
sailant; and so he consulted a German friend of his as to 
what he should do in the matter. The friend suggested a 


miners' meeting-, wliicli was called at once. Now what do 
you think the miners' meeting did. They fined the plaintiff 
twenty dollars for calling the meeting, and the fine was ex- 
pended for drinks on the spot, the meeting being held in the 
saloon, and the chairman being the proprietor of the place. 

Another instance reported was that of four miners who 
were partners in four claims. These did not return more 
than expenses, and they decided to sell. One of the part- 
ners was going to Forty Mile for something or other, and the 
others instructed him, if he could, to sell out for the whole 
lot. He asked them what was the lowest they would be 
willing to take for their interests, so that he might have 
something to go on. After consultation they decided that 
five hundred dollars was the least they would be willing to 
take, but at the same time instructed him to get all that he 
could. At Forty Mile he sold the four claims for two thou- 
sand eight hundred dollars — seven hundred dollars apiece. 
He handed the three partners five hundred dollars each, and 
put the one thousand three hundred in his own pocket. 
Soon after they discovered this fact, and called a miners' 
meeting to make him divide even. The meeting by reso- 
lutions decided that: 

" As long as they got their five hundred dollars apiece, 
it was none of their business what he got." 

Again, a miner, commonly known as French Joe, a 
French Canadian, was going down " the creek," as it is 
termed, to Forty Mile. While passing the cabin of a cer- 
tain miner he was asked where he was going. 

" To Forty Mile," he said. 

" Well, you're going by Dick Rol)inson's; will you take 
down those two ounces and give it to him? " 

" Oui — ccrtainment, M'sr." 


The two ounces were weighed out and handed over to 
Joe, who carried them down and faithfully presented them 
to Kobinson as directed, w^ith the explanation that they had 
been received from the miner. 

" But," said Robinson, " he owes me three ounces." 

Joe was pained and surprised and a little indignant at 
his reception, 

" I don't know for dat. He gif me two bounce — der 
she was. Dat's all I know for." 

" But he owes me three," said the persistent Robinson. 

" Yell, dat may be. She maybe he owe you tousan'. 
He giv me two bounce — dere she is. You got two 
bounce? " 

" Yes; there's two ounces here." 

" Yell, dat's all he gif me." 

" But I want my other ounce." 

" Yell, sacr-r-r-e " — the Frenchman was becoming 
warm — " perhaps next time you see him you ask him about 
her. I give you two bounce — dat's all I got." 

Robinson called a miners' meeting to decide whether or 
not Joe should pay him the extra ounce. Eighty-two 
miners attended, and after much discussion, in which Rob- 
inson admitted having received the two ounces from Joe, 
six voted that the Frenchman should pay the extra ounce 
and five that he should not. The rest, as Joe explained, 
" didn't giv dam no how — one vay or de other." 

So the Frenchman was compelled to pay the extra ounce, 
with the costs of the meeting added, amounting to nearly 
one hundred and fifty dollars. Joe remarked afterward, in. 
telling the tale of his misfortune : 

" By Gar, dat satisfy me with miners' meeting. I 
don't vant any more dem things." 


What first brought the miners' meetings into disrepute 
was the result of one held at Forty Mile in June, 1896, or 
shortly before our arrival. A tailor there had demanded 
payment of a bill of four dollars and fifty cents from a bar- 
ber. The barber put in a counter bill which fully paid the 
tailor's bill. The tailor called a meeting to decide between 

The meeting gave the tailor one dollar and fifty cents, 
and one of its members then gravely proposed that he be 
fined twenty dollars for calling the meeting. This was just 
about to pass unanimously, as things sometimes do at miners' 
meetings, it being sufficient only to have a mover and a 
seconder, when another member stood up and protested 
against this action, urging that if they fined a man for call- 
ing a meeting the poor man would have no way at all to 
get justice. They had awarded the man one dollar and 
fifty cents, and the imposition of a fine would be manifestly 
unfair. The meeting saw the force of this and let him go. 

The barber then rose, and slowly, deliberately, and with 
a picturesque profusion of profanity and an eloquence of 
metaphor that did credit to his originality, requested all 
present to go — not to any more frigid clime. He would 
go down the river on the underside of a log, he observed, if 
the worst came to the worst — but as for that dollar and a 
half, they could — ! ! 

A committee was forthwith appointed to try and collect 
the amount adjudged due. They could, however, find no 
one who owed the barber anything, or, if he did, was will- 
ing to pay it over to them. It was well known that if they 
tried to enforce payment from the barber he would apply to 
the mounted police for protection, and of course their action 
in so doing would be punishable. The absurdity of the 


sitiuition dawned on the parties to the affair, and miners' 
meetings fell below par. 

This and similar cases brought the miners' meetings 
into sncli contempt that all in the country were quite ready 
to join in their obsequies when the Canadian police insti- 
tuted a diflferent condition of things. All seem to be 
heartily glad that they had been abolished. They 
seem to be particularly pleased with the fact that a man's 
just rights do not depend upon his personal popularity, that 
his title to his claim is not based on the number of times he 
treats when near the saloon, nor yet upon the quantity of 
whisky he drinks, or any kindred merit, but simply and 
purely on his just and legal rights, whether or not all in the 
country are his friends or all his enemies. In the first stages 
of settlement, however, these miners' meetings and the laws 
they made answered the purpose better than anything else 
could. There is a sense of justice among the miners which 
is not always found in society, and it would not become per- 
verted except for the introduction of elements depending 
less on their hands and muscles than on their wits. 

The general coui-se of Forty Mile Kiver as far as the 
boundary line, a distance of twenty-three miles, is south- 
west, but after this it runs nearly south. The miners work 
their way up in small boats. It is about one hundred and 
twenty-five yards wide at its mouth, and all the way the 
current is strong with many rapids. Eight miles from its 
mouth is a placed called the Caiion, though it is simply a 
crooked contraction of the river with high and steep banks 
for a distance of about a mile. At the north side there is 
plenty of room for a trail along the beach. 

The rumors of the rich finds at IMosquito Creek had 
been one of the incentives in our coming to Alaska. Joe, 


who had followed reports closely, had never ceased to urge 
upon me the possibilities of this creek whenever I had shown 
an inclination to turn aside and travel into regions un- 
known. Here was where he expected to make his fortune, 
but Avhen we had worked our way to the object of all our 
exertions we found that gold was being washed out plenti- 
fully, but the creek was completely occupied, and, of course, 
we had no money to go into a speculative business. The 
law allows a claim of one thousand three hundred and 
twenty feet measured in the general direction of the stream, 
and the few avIio had been in the country at the time of the 
strike had taken all the claims, although the rule up to that 
time had been claims of five hundred feet only. Such was 
the condition of things at Mosquito Creek. 

But we found mosquitoes. They are no more abundant 
there than anywhere else, so far as I have seen in Alaska in 
the summer months, but they had a better chance to prey 
upon us. We had had our trials with this pest on our voy- 
age down ever since the ice had melted, but it was not till 
we were camped around the headwaters of Forty Mile River 
that we began to realize their capabilities as thorns in the 
flesh and destroyers of the soul. For he is a pretty good 
missionary in Alaska wdio will not swear once in a while in 
the mosquito season. 

These insects, which are apparently no larger than the 
ordinary mosquito of low^er latitudes, are several times as 
venomous. They begin operations about the first of June, 
and close them about the first of September, and during that 
brief season they make up for any lost time that the latitude 
imposes. They seem to tlirive on any ordinary smoke. 
They revel in fire unless it consumes a whole forest. One 
may hurl a blanket through a cloud of them, but ranks are 


closed up and the cloud is again intact before the blanket lias 
hit the ground. .Vll day long, and of course in July that 
means for about twenty-four hours, they are on the alert, 
always after anything that has blood in its veins. Any one 
who reads the Bible in this region in the summer must won- 
der at the weak nature of Pharaoh. There surely never 
could be a plague like this. 

They rise in vast clouds from the peculiar moss along 
the banks and creeks, and their rapaciousness knows no 
limits. They have been known to drive men to suicide, 
and the sting of a f ew^ dozen will make a man miserable for 
days. I have seen tough miners sit and cry, and it is a com- 
mon sight to see them so worn out and nervous that they 
can not sleep even after they are protected from them. My 
wrists have sometimes been so bitten that for days they were 
too lame for me to work to any advantage. 

It is absolutely essential to wear cheese cloth or mosquito 
netting of some kind for a protection, but in the summer 
time, when there is scarcely a breath stiiTing, this of itself 
becomes almost unbearable. They pile themselves upon 
any netting worn over the face so thickly that it is dif- 
ficult to breathe, and they will make so much noise that it is 
sometimes difficult to convei*se unless one almost shouts in 
his neighbor's ear. 

The tent door must be covered with netting, there must 
be netting over the bed, netting must be worn while at 
work, gloves must be worn on the hands, everything must 
be done to prevent these insects from devouring the body 
and wearing out the nerves. Like everything else in 
Alaska, the mosquitoes are on a large scale. I do not wish 
to make it out any worse than it is, for the reality is bad 
enough. Any one who goes to Alaska will at times be im- 


pressed with the paucity- of the English language as a 
medium of expression. I wish those scientists who write 
so learnedly upon the benefit of the mosquito as an antidote 
for malaria would take a trip to the Yukon regions in sum- 
mer. They have something to learn. 

The Indians say — and it is more readily believed than 
most Indian stories — that they have known bears and dogs 
to rush madly off cliifs when frenzied with a swarm of 
mosquitoes, and that native horses will break harness and 
run madly away, and that dead bears have been found in the 
woods swollen by the bites of these insects. But one thing 
is certain, the miners in their work along the creek suffer 
agonies from them, no matter how well protected. A 
strong wind is always welcome, and a frost seems like the 
soft, comforting touch of Nature, although it may be the 
forerunner of a long winter and a season of deprivation. 



Pushing on to Circle City — Some of the Yukon Creeks — Okl Man 
Rock and Old Woman Rock — A Flight of Native Fancy — The 
Poor Man and His Scolding AVife — His Last Resort and its 
Petrifying Results — Prospecting American Creek — Our Lumber 
Venture — A Thunder Storm and a Wreck — Escaping on the 
Tar Stater — Arriving at Circle City — Our Reception — Some of 
the City's Institutions — Convenience of the Saloons — No money 
but Gold Dust — How Purchases Are Made — The Dance Halls — 
The Relaxation of Faro — Dogs Invade Our Boat — Their Thieving 
Propensities — Faithful Workers — Their Enormous and Indiscrim- 
inating Appetite — Eating Their Harness — An Arctic Turnout — 
The Dog Whip and Its Uses — The Yukon Sled — " Ouk," "Arrah," 
and "Holt." 

FINDING no promising opportunity for suddenly be- 
coming rich on the creeks of Forty Mile, as all the 
best locations appeared to be occupied, we concluded 
to return to the town and to push on towards Circle City, 
which was reported to be flourishing in the most magical 
manner, and where wages were high, whether the mines 
proved profitable or not. We each located a claim, how- 
ever, on one of the Forty Mile creeks least prospected. 
There could be no doubt that there was gold enough in 
that section, if the mines could be properly worked. One 
man we saw had cleaned up $50,000 as a result of three 



months' work on his claim, but much dead work was 
necessary and heavy expenses were to come out of tliis. 

Circle City is about two hundred and twenty miles 
further down the Yukon, which continues in its same gen- 
eral character much of the way. A large number of 
streams flow into it, all called creeks, although they are 
of considerable size. Small steamers could make their way 
up them but for the bars at points. 

Where the river cuts the boundary line it flows between 
two large rooks, one called Old Man Rock, on the west side, 
and the other. Old Woman Rock, on the east. These 
respectful appellations are the translations from Indian 
names, which, as we afterwards learned, are derived from 
a legend, indicating that even in the dull intellect of the 
natives there are occasional flights of the imagination, such 
as among other more promising aborigines have been woven 
into graceful song and stirring epics. Tliis legend, as it has 
been culled from natives by traders who are not experts in 
legendary lore, and which therefore may be somewhat 
misty in spots, runs something like this : 

In remote ages there lived here a powerful tshauman, 
which is the equivalent in the speech of these interior In- 
dians to the word " shaman," — medicine man — used by 
the tribes of the south coast. These medicine men are the 
magi, or wise men, of the Alaskans, and by their absurd 
mana'uvcrs exercise a wonderful influence over the super- 
stitious natives. In this powerful tshauman's locality there 
lived a poor man who, like Socrates, had an inveterate scold 
for a wife. He bore his troubles for a long time without 
murmuring, in the hopes that she would relent, but time 
only served to increase the infliction. At length, his pa- 
tience weakening under the unceasing torment, he com- 


plained to the tsliauman, who, of course, went through some 
of the motions common to all powerful wise men in his 
position, and then sent the poor man home, telling him that 
in a short time all would be well. 

Soon after this the poor man went out to hunt, and 
remained away for many days, endeavoring to secure some 
provisions for home use, but without avail. He returned, 
weary and hungry, only to be met by his wife with a more 
than usually violent outburst of scolding. This so pro- 
voked him that he gathered all his strength for one grand 
effort, and gave her a kick that sent her clear across the 
river, which is here about half a mile wide. On landing, 
she was converted into a mass of stone, which remains to 
this day as a monument to her viciousness, and a warning 
to all female scolds. Of course, it was the tshauman who 
effected the metamorphosis, and there is some doubt as to 
whether it was he or the enraged husband who did the kick- 
ing, but it makes little difference, as the husband could 
not have done it had not the tshauman rendered some mirac- 
ulous assistance. 

Like a great many other ancient legends, important 
features are left unexplained, as, for instance, how it was 
that the husband, after kicking his spouse across the river, 
was himself turned into a mass of rock.- The Indian intel- 
lect, having gone thus far in its flight of poetic fancy, doubt- 
less become quite exhausted, and was unable to proceed. 
Perhaps the old man was petrified with astonishment at the 
remarkable effect of his kick. From an artistic standpoint, 
it will be seen that it lacks some of those rare qualities of 
those northern legends which the genius of "Wagner has set 
to sonl-stirrina' strains. But it is a remarkably sublime 
fancy for a Yukon Indian. 


Going on a few miles, we came to American Creek, and 
Joe's disposition to prospect got the best of him for a while. 
It looked promising, so we entered and spent a few days 
there. We found gold, but none of our diggings averaged 
more than five dollars a day, and it would be better to work 
for wages, which were reported to be at least ten dollars a 
day at Circle City, than to bother with dirt of that kind. 

Having learned that good logs were in great demand 
at Circle City for building purposes, we stopped on our way 
down the river at a place where the timber was particularly 
good_, and constructed a raft of fine spruce timber. But 
we had proceeded but a little way with this down the swift 
current when we were caught in a thunder storm, which 
came up suddenly, and, like everything else in this great 
country, operated on a large scale. In these silent solitudes 
a clap of thunder caroms through the hills in mighty rever- 
berations, and the claps follow on each other's heels so 
rapidly, and their reverberations become so confused, that 
they seem to be tearing each other and the hills into frag- 

The roar was deafening, the rain was blinding, the wind 
was like the blast from a mighty air pump, driving the 
murky waters of the river into a frenzy. The Tar Htater, 
which was tied by her nose to the raft, danced about, while 
the water swept over the raft, nearly taking us from our 
feet. Desperately we poled along, trying to keep in the 
stream, but, in spite of all efforts, the raft ran with fearful 
force on a bar, and instantly began to break to pieces. We 
had barely time to jump into the boat and cut the rope be- 
fore being thrown into the river. With great difficulty 
we worked toward a partly sheltered bank, and there 
awaited the passing of the furious storm. That ended our 


lumber venture, and towards evening we continued our 
way down in the boat. 

After rowing" about one hundred and sixty miles from 
the boundary line, we drifted into the Yukon flats and the 
center of a great mining district, that of Birch Creek and 
the upper Tanana. Circle City, the metropolis of this great 
region, and then claimed to be the largest log city in the 
world, makes a brave front on its bluff, overlooking the 
river. At the time we reached it it was the booming town 
of Alaska, and had nearly a thousand inhabitants. It had 
more during the Avinter, but at this season many of the 
miners had gone over to the creek, which is reached by a 
six-mile portage, to work their claims. 

It Avas early in July when we arrived in sight of this 
place, and during the twilight hour, that l)rief space of time 
during the summer months when the sun dips below the 
horizon, spreading the whole sky above with a wondrous 
mellow light. We anchored our boat out from the shore 
in a sort of slough, and went up to see the city. 

The places of business face the river, and Avere going at 
full blast. There Avas a theater, four large Avarehouses, 
three stores, and three blacksmith shops. AVe counted 
tAventy-eight saloons and eight dance halls. Back of these 
Avere log houses, interspersed Avith tents, laid out in fair 
order, and altogether presenting a A^ery comfortable ap- 
pearance for these regions. Our approach had been noted 
from the shore, and there was a general gathering to Avel- 
come us, for the appearance of a boat on the river, no matter 
hoAV small, is an event in this far-away center of civilization. 
It Avas a cosmopolitan croAvd of men and Avomen from every- 
Avhere in Xorth America, a sprinkling of dirty Indians, and 
a croAvd of hoAAding dogs. 


The stores and saloons are the only places to go to. If 
seeking information, it is found there. If looking for a 
friend or acquaintance, the chances are that he will not be 
at his cabin, but in the saloons or one of the stores. Nearly 
all the men congregate in the saloons, tell yarns, play cards, 
and occasionally drink too much, though a man without 
gold dust is not in danger of it, for prices are high. The 
tenderfoot will doubtless expect to see men going about 
with a gun and knives stuck in their belts, but, rough as 
humanity is here, it generally has an orderly appearance. 

There is no specie except such as newcomers manage 
to bring in over the passes or up the river. Everything 
is transacted in gold dust. Every man and woman carries 
a buckskin sack, and when they enter a store to make pur- 
chases they throw out their sack of dust, and the amount 
of the purchase is weighed out in front of the purchaser. 
The seller never cheats himself, but makes sufficient allow- 
ance for poor dust. For instance, a man who puts twenty 
dollars' worth of dust in his sack, and goes from place to 
place making purchases, wnll find that he gets but about 
eighteen dollars' worth of goods for his twenty dollars. 
Sometimes in the stores the dust on five hundred dollars' 
Avorth of sales will weigh up to five hundred and twenty-five 
dollars, but, of course, it works both ways in the long run. 
It seems to be more the custom of the place than a trick of 
dishonesty. But the dust and the scales are always in evi- 
dence, even if it is nothing l)ut a spool of thread that is 
desired. (^lo into a saloon and buy a cigar, and fifty cents 
worth of your dust is weighed out; if a man drinks, fifty 
cents' worth of dust goes out of his sack for one of the worst 
mixtures that ever was labeled whisky. 

A dance hall at Circle City at this time was not such n 


den of wickedness as is generally supposed by those who read 
newspaper accounts of life in these far-off mining camps. In 
18UG the Alaska jjlaces had not become sufficiently attract- 
ive to draw thither in large numbers the professional rough 
element. It is rather one of the institutions of society as 
it must exist here, among hard-working miners, like the 
blacksmith shop, or the schoolhouse which sets back among 
the cabins. It is a community of men, rough in aspect, 
but not wholly vicious. After long seasons of hard work 
in the mines up the creek, or after tiresome journeys over 
steep and dangerous trails, in the solitudes of the great for- 
ests, or among the mountains, even the rasping music of a 
dance hall sounds sweet. The rough miner delights in a 
bit of a square dance, or the enlivenment of a reel, or, pos- 
sibly, if his early education has not been neglected, of a 
waltz or polka. He knows that he is in a society which 
cares nothing about the cut of his clothes, and is not critical 
about the grace of his step. A touch of feminine life, even 
if not all that the fastidious or the strictly moral might 
desire, comes like a warm breath from the southern lati- 
tude over the frozen hills, a reminder of the city life in 
the States. 

Of course, the miners have to pay well for it, as for 
everj^thing else. Before he leads " one of the charming 
young ladies " into a set on the floor he must dig a dollar's 
worth of dust out of his sack. The young lady gets a quar- 
ter of it, and the house, which takes the rest, furnishes the 
pair a drink if they call for it. The miner need not pull off 
his big boots and put on pumps, or even take his hat off, 
and he can swing his partner with all the gusto of which 
he is capable. Every set he dances in costs him a dollar, 
and a round dance the same. The man who plays the violin 


on the roiiglily-improvised platform receives anywhere 
from twenty-live dollars to forty dollars a night. He does 
not need to snffer the hardships of working a claim, but 
the chances are that he has one, and that someone is work- 
ing it for him. 

If the miner does not take to dancing he can seek relax- 
ation at the faro table. If he loses, as he probably does, 
there is more dust in the hole on his claim up the creek; if 
he wins, so much the better. Under such conditions, and 
loading a life which for many days in the year is full of 
hardships, he seeks amusement when the chance offers, and 
is satisfied that he is getting his money's worth, no matter 
what it costs. Every one is on a perfect equality. The col- 
lege man, if he happens to be here, is no better than anyone 
else; a man with thousands of gold dust tied up in his belt 
exhibits no haughtiness ; indeed, in the busy season, he may 
not be able to buy a lodging, and may pay for the privilege 
of sleeping on the dance-house floor " after the ball is over." 
Here the socialist might see the realization of some of his 
dreams of equality, but there are precious few, I imagine, 
who would have the fortitude to brave the dangers of a 
miner's life under the midnight sun, to enjoy the realization 
of the dream. 

After observing something of the town, and making 
some arrangements for a temporary abode, Joe and I went 
liack to our boat, where we learned other facts concerning 
the ways and possibilities of the country. While we were 
away the dogs had swam out to our boat, chewed off the 
rope by which it was held, and dragged it ashore. There 
they tore open every sack of ]>rovisions we had, and. when 
we approached, were having a regular feast. Thev had even 
chewed up some of the flour sacks and the dishrag, the 


flavor of which was undoubtedly agreeable to them. Every- 
thing in the boat was wet, and the damage we figured up to 
amount to forty dollars. Everyone who gets along well 
in Ahiska must have a proper understanding of dogs, and 
a few facts concerning them may be established at this point, 
though the pioneer may not acquire a complete knowledge 
of them until he has been some time in the country. 

Dogs are fed here but once a day, unless they find an 
opportunity to feed themselves, and they rarely let an 
available opportunity slip, even if they have to bite through 
a tin can or climb a pole. They are fed dried fish, whenever 
it can be obtained; if unobtainable, bacon and flour. All 
provisions must be set up on a cache, and that should be 
as high as possible, or they will climb up to it when there 
is no one at hand to disturb them. They will lie down in- 
nocently enough near a tent, watching and waiting for hours 
for the owner to leave and give them a chance to ransack it. 
I have known them to come into my tent, go up to a boiling- 
pot of beans on the stove, push ofi" the cover, take out the 
piece of bacon, and walk ofi^ with their tails curled up over 
their backs in the most nonchalant manner. 

But they are too precious to shoot. They are a prime 
necessity in Alaska, and are sometimes worth almost their 
weight in gold. They do nearly all the packing in the 
summer, and they will carry from forty to fifty pounds, 
keeping up with a man. In the winter they do all the 
freighting, haul all the wood, and canw the mails. Har- 
nessed tandem to sleds — and I have seen twenty in a single 
string — they will go anvwhere, ninety miles from Circle 
City to the mines, or a thousand to Juneau, and if a man 
wishes to take out for a drive one of the few young ladies 
of the city who conforms to his ideas of respectability, and 


whose acquaintance is, therefore, of considerable value, he 
rigs up a couple of dog teams, for Yukon sleds hold but 
one, and off they go. But there is very little driving for 
pleasure over the Arctic snows, though the experience is 
not without its delights, so unique are all the conditions. 

I met one young lady who had become enthusiastic over 
dog-sled rides for pleasure. Her father owned a fine 
team of native dogs and she had a good Yukon sled. The 
winter before, when the weather was clear, and often when 
the thermometer was hovering far below zero, she used to 
bundle up in her fur parka and moccasins, slip the dogs 
into their harness, and streak off across the frozen flats, going- 
many miles before she returned. Squeezed down into the 
little box of a sled, wrapped in furs so that she could hardly 
move, and so that little but her eyes could be seen, she flew 
along after the scampering dogs, up and down, over the 
deep snow. 

" Tip over ? Oh, yes, many times," she said, laugh- 
ingly, " but that's a part of the fun. And sometimes I 
would have to get out and run along with the dogs. Those 
rides did me more good than any sleighride I ever had over 
your smooth, monotonous roads after a big horse. These 
dog turnouts are positively delightful." 

Two good dogs will haul from five to six hundred pounds 
on a good trail, and run twenty-five miles in six hours, and 
they will haul a man from forty to fifty miles a day and 
show little sign of weariness. A native Yukon dog is much 
more valuable than any importation because they endure 
the climate so much better. The natives are of all colors, 
and most of them have very long hair, as fine as wool. They 
look like wolves, but they rarely bite or bark at persons. 
They simply howl. They are faithful to the last degree 


iu their work, and have that single failing — they are born 

Buckskin moccasins are provided by many owners to 
keep the feet of the faithful little animals from becoming 
raw and sore on the ice and snow. They are made like a 
child's stocking, about nine inches long. Sometimes pack- 
saddles are used, whereby a dog can carry from ten to 
twenty pounds, besides drawing a sled. A dog harness 
commonly weighs a little over two pounds. The collar, 
which is usually made of leather, faced with sheepskin, and 
stuffed with deer hair, slips over the dog's head — fumbling 
with buckles would be severe on the fingers in Arctic 
weather — and on each collar are rings, to which the traces 
are attached. These traces are usually made of heavy web 
material, otherwise the dogs would eat them up. They 
have an insatiable appetite for leather, and will devour their 
collars if they are allowed a chance. They have t-o be kept 
separate when harnessed, or they will eat each other's col- 
lars, and when the web traces become oily they will eat 
them. They are so adroit that, sooner or later, even with 
the most careful master, they will devour their trappings. 
An Arctic appetite is something enormous in a man, but it 
is completely distanced by that of a dog. 

An old prospector in Alaska told me that once wdien he 
w'as driving a pair of native dogs one of them slipped his 
collar while he was camping for the night near Fort Yukon, 
and ate up a pair of large gauntlet gloves, all the leather off 
a snow-shoe, a whip, and a part of the handle, a long leather 
strap on a gun case, and the leather binding on the canvas 
case, and badly chewed a part of the harness. TVlien the 
man got up in the morning the dog was asleep, and never 
showed any sijrns of the night's dissipation. But these dogs 
will do a good day's work on four pounds of dried fish. 


They do not drive themselves. A good leader is gen- 
erally placed ahead, but dogs \(^ill often lie down in the 
trail unless kept going. They are driven with a dogwhip, 
a device which is a miracle in the hands of an expert, but 
a dangerous thing in the hands of a novice. It has a handle 
about nine inches long, and a lash about thirty feet long, 
and weighs four pounds. Tlie lash is made of folded and 
plaited seal-hide, and for five feet from the handle averages 
about one and a half inches in diameter; then, for fourteen 
feet, it gradually tapers off, ending in a single thong half 
an inch thick and eleven feet long. When traveling tlie 
lash drags along at full length behind, and, when the driver 
wishes to make use of it, he gives a skillful jerk and twist 
of the wrist which cause the lash to fly forward, the thick 
part first, the tapering end continuing the motion till it snape 
at full length ahead. Sometimes it is merely snapped over 
the heads of the dogs as a reminder or warning, but a skill- 
ful driver can pick out any dog in a team and touch almost 
any spot on a dog's back, and, if hit just right, the fur will 
fly. But till the driver is used to the management of this 
weapon, he is liable to receive most of the injury himself, 
for when awkwardly thrown the lash may wind about him 
like a snake and inflict painful injuries on his own face. 

The standard sled for an Arctic traveler consists of a 
narrow box four feet long, the front half being covered or 
boxed in, mounted on a board eight feet long, resting on 
runners. In this box the passenger sits, wrapjied in skins 
so that he can hardly move, with only his head and shoulders 
projecting. In front and behind and on top of the box is 
])laced all the luggage, covered wntli canvas, and securely 
lashed, to withstand all the jolting and possible upsets, and 
the snow-shoes are kept within easy reach. 


The dogs are harnessed to the front of the sled, some- 
times each by a separate trace. The nearest dog is about 
fifteen feet from the sled and the leader, with bells on his 
neck, as far off as the number of dogs in the team. They 
are guided by the voice, using husky Esquimaux words, 
" owk " — go to the right; " arrah " — to the left; and 
'" holt " — straight on. If the driver nms ahead on snow- 
shoes, as is frequently required, the dogs will follow him. 



Society in Circle City — Cabin Doors Open — Tlie Punishment of Evil- 
doers — Miners' Meetings — Methods of Procedure — Judge and 
Jury — No Pistols — Our JNloney Runs Low — Joe Hurries to tte 
Mines — Great Demand for Log Buildings — High Price of Lots — 
Process of Building a Cabin — Two Things to Remember — How 
the Moss Comes into Play — Doors and Windows — The Interior 
of Cabins — Rude Furniture — Unique Beds — Something More 
Substantial — The Yukon Palace — Access to the Second Story — 
How Storm Sheds are Made — Tents Good Enough for People 
with No Gold Dust — A Man With an Axe a Skilled Workman — 
A Bustling Scene — Logs and Chips Everywhere — An Ounce a 
Day for Some Workmen — Dreaming of a Coming Metropolis on 
the Yukon. 

WE found society at Circle City not at all bad for a 
mining town. Being on the American side, no 
authority existed there except miners' law, but 
under that one must walk straight as far as honesty goes. 
With all the idleness, drinking, and gambling, there was 
less crime there than would be found in most cities of its 
size in the United States. Cabin doors were nearly always 
left unlocked, and in them bags of gold and other valuables 
were left when the owners were away. The Miners' As- 
sociation was more feared by evil-doers than any courts or 
police would have been. To be sent down the river in a 

small boat was to delinquents a worse punishment than im- 
11 (1T3) 


prisonment, and it might happen that no boats were avail- 
able and the evil-doer would depart on a log. Depart he 
must.' To be turned out to shift for one's self in Alaska is 
no laughing matter. 

In minor cases simply involving disputes over money or 
claims, the miners' meetings appeared to afford satisfactory 
justice, and they had not become liable to some of the 
abuses noted elsewhere. When such a meeting is called 
all the miners at hand assemble, a chairman and secretary 
are appointed, and the plaintiff is called upon to state his 
case. Then the defendant is heard, and any other testi- 
mony introduced. The assembled miners act as the judge 
and jury together, can ask all the questions they desire, and 
make any motion they please. Any motion that is carried 
for the disposal of the case settles it, and a committee is ap- 
pointed to see that the judgment is carried out. So long- 
as the majority of the miners are actuated by a sense of see- 
ing fair play for every man, no court could be more efficient 
or just. The element of danger comes when a little frontier 
politics works its way into the system and justice is defeated 
by some man of influence, who more than likely may be a 
saloon-keeper. But so far as I witnessed the operation of 
justice in Circle City at this time, it was adequate and fair. 
There being no police force at hand, as over the Canadian 
border, and the authority of the United States being too far 
off to be effective, the miners fully realized the importance 
of not abusing their own authority, and of being fair and 
just to all concerned. The judgments rendered would 
sometimes appear curious to an outsider, but when all the 
conditions of life in these regions were taken into account, 
their rationality would become apparent. 

It was a miners' law that no pistol should be carried in 


the citj, and it was obeyed. A spirit of good feeling and 
good comradeship prevailed. There was a sort of feeling 
that the dangers of existence here were too many and too 
real to have them aggravated by any unnecessary outbreaks 
of the evil side of human nature. Questionable as some of 
the characters were in this booming town, there were many 
respectable families there, the education of the children 
was provided for, a good hospital was among the institutions, 
and it was as complete a town as one could expect on the 
Yukon, founded as it was but two years before, and rising so 
suddenly to importance in 1896. 

Joe, w4th the restlessness of an old prospector, was in- 
clined to make for the mines at once, but as wages were 
averaging about twelve dollars a day in the city, and as our 
supply of money had run low because of our misfortunes on 
the trip, I was disposed to work awhile in the city, and 
acquire some shelter and provisions for the winter. So we 
concluded to separate for a time. I Avas handy with car- 
penters' tools, and with the axe, and (juickly secured a job 
putting up log cabins, for which there was a gTeat demand 
at this time. One could fairly see the city spread out and 
grow. Lots in good locations were selling for five thousand 
dollars and over. 

Log houses may be made pretentious or otherwise, de- 
pending upon the uses to which they are to be put. An 
ordinary dwelling for the accommodation of two or three 
people need not be large — fourteen feet l\y sixteen feet in 
the clear, that is to say, built of sixteen feet and eighteen 
feet logs. To a lumberman or carpenter the building of 
such a cabin is an easy matter, and a green hand who is 
handy can learn very quickly how to put it up. There are 
two things to remember. The cabin must be built. to keep 


the cold out iu the winter, and to keep the mosquitoes out 
in the summer. For this the cabin must be equally tight, 
for wherever a draft can get in a mosquito mil find its way, 

iSTo foundations are needed. The only preparation is 
leveling oft" the frozen ice and '" muck," as it is called. The 
logs must either be cut and floated down the river, or can be 
bought as they lie in the water ready cut in proper lengths. 
The average size of these logs is seven inches in diameter, 
and the length varies considerably. The cabin should be 
seven feet high to the ronf line, and so will require at least 
forty-eight log's - — that is twelve a side for the walls. 
Smaller logs are used for the gable ends and the roof, and 
some pieces of cut lumber will be needed for the tables, 
stools, and bunks. It costs not less than five hundred dol- 
lars to build a log cabin complete, as prices run on the 

The first thing to do is to " spot " the logs. By this a 
lumberman means to strip off the unevenness and skin them 
on the top and bottom sides about three inches wide, so as to 
insure their lying close together when placed one upon the 
other. All the logs must then be " notched " at the end, 
half-way through, beginning five inches from the end. 
Each notch will have to be about seven inches vdde and cut 
half-way through the log, so that wlien a similar notch is 
cut in another log the two can be fitted together and be level 
top and bottom. 

Several sacks of moss must be gathered in readiness, and 
then the miner is in shape to commence building his home. 
The two side beams are laid in place and the two end beams 
are put across, the notches of the side beams fitting into 
those of the end beams so that a solid rectangular frame is 


formed. Moss must now be spread all along the top of this 
frame of logs. It should be laid evenly, about three inches 
thick, and in such manner that when the next frame of logs 
is in place the joints of the notches will be held about half 
an inch apart. The reason for this is that, as the log house 
is built up higher and higher, the weight of the upi:)er logs 
will gradually squeeze down the lower ones until the notches 
are a close fit, and in so doing must squeeze the moss between 
the logs, making it airtight and mosquito-proof. This looks 
like a very trifling matter, but it is one of those little things 
upon which the comfort of the whole cabin Avill depend. 
There are many little matters like this which are of the 
greatest importance to him who winters on the Yukon. 

The walls are built up solid like a box to the proper 
lieight, and the windows and doors are put in afterwanls. 
When the proper height for the window is reached, vertical 
saw-cuts should be made in the log the width apart of the 
windoAv-pane. These cuts are merely a convenience, so 
that when the cabin is finished it will be an easy matter to 
insert the saw and cut down through the logs on each side 
the square spaces into which the window and door are to fit. 
The same saw-cuts must be made at the height of the top 
of the door for the same reason. 

The logs are laid up by means of skids and block and 
tackle. When the walls have been raised to the height of 
six feet, the roof logs are laid, those at the ends being 
shortened to correspond with the pitch desired to be given 
to the gable. This is a part of the work which needs a 
fairly good craftsman. To the top of the roof, that is to the 
ridge-pole, the cnbin is usually eleven feet high — in other 
words, the gal)lo or slant of the roof is four feet higli, meas- 
ured perpendicularly. The logs for these gable-ends must 


be cut in tlie proper lengths. The first one will be about 
t\\'eh'e feet and the top only a few inches long; the others 
between will be graded in size. In order to hold these logs 
in place one over the other, wooden pegs or dowels must be 
made and driven in tight. The dowels in each lower log 
should fit snugly into the upper ones, and be made long 
enough to allow for the moss betw^een the logs, and to let 
the upper logs press the lower ones together. When the 
logs are all in place for the gable ends, they must be 
" sniped " off; that is to say, all the ends of these logs must 
be cut off on the proper slant. 

When the roof logs have been laid and a ridge pole is in 
place, a rough roof of split poles is laid, the poles extending 
from the ridge to oiie or two feet over the side walls, form- 
ing eaves. The poles are secured in place by logs laid 
across them transversely, through which peg-s may be driven 
into the poles of the roof and logs of the superstructure. 
When this has been done, the poles are covered with earth 
and moss to the depth of a foot or more, thus forming a sub- 
stantial, tight roof that excludes both wet and cold. In 
making the roof care is taken to leave a vent at the top in 
addition to the hole for a stove-pipe. 

A cabin built in this fashion, whether at the claim in the 
mines, or in the city, usually serves only as a temporary 
shelter, and when circumstances warrant it a more imposing 
and pennanent structure may be built. Should the claim 
prove profitable, such a cabin will serve later on as a store- 
house, or should a better abiding place be desired in the 
town, it may serve as an ell to the larger building. 

Rude bunks are made in such a cabin, and a door made of 
whip-sawed lumber is fitted to the opening. A fire is built 
in the center to warm the interior, smoke making its escape 


tlirough the central vent in the roof. The stove is com- 
monly used in camp huts for cooking only, and is not suf- 
ficient for warmth in severe winter weather. Such a cabin, 
while not inviting, is not an unhealthful shelter. Having 
been built of green logs, its walls will be ice-coated through- 
out the winter whenever the fire is out, as the moisture is 
drawn from them when the fire is burning. 

The interior of the cabins is pretty much the same every- 
where. The beds or bunks are always opposite the door, 
across the far end of the cabin, the table is always under the 
window, and the stove on the far side from the window. 
Three or four-legged stools and a few boxes complete the 
furnishing. All the furniture is to be made by the miner, 
and having built his cabin this cabinet work will not be dif- 
ficult. For the table, two horizontal props driven into the 
side of the cabin and supported by slanting struts are all 
that will be necessary. On the horizontal props the table- 
top of planks must be nailed. The tables are usually large 
enough for four people, one at each end and two at the free 

The bed is a shelf across the back end of the cabin. Is 
usually divided in the center, and so wide that two men can 
sleep on each side of the partition. It is made in the 
simplest way by placing a pole horizontally across the end 
of the cabin, say four feet from the back wall, and joining 
the ends between the chinks of the logs in the side walls. 
The partition in the center can be made to afford additional 
support. Some people put the slats for the bed across — 
that is to say, width-wise — but there is more spring, more 
ease and comfort if they are placed lengthwise. The mat- 
tress is nothing but moss and straw well bedded down. 

In building a new, substantial, and better arranged log 


house, the first business is to carefully select the logs. Drift 
logs are preferable, being dried and seasoned. In the ab- 
sence of such the bark is peeled from green logs, and they 
are cut to the desired length and hewn square with adze and 
broad axe. When the foot logs have been laid — prefer- 
ably the largest and soundest obtainable — -joists fashioned 
from whip-sawed lumber are laid in mortises made in the 
foot logs, and secured thereto with wooden pegs driven 
through holes which have been bored therein. At the cor- 
ners the logs are mortised so that their round or square sides 
fit closely upon one another. But when laid up a coating of 
moss or mud is used to fill up all the interstices. Openings 
are left in the sides and ends for such doors and windows 
as may be desired. When the side walls have reached a 
height of six or eight feet in the clear above the floor joists, 
a second series of joists for a ceiling and the floor of an attic 
may be laid if desired. 

Having raised the walls to the required height the roof 
construction is begun. Two forms are in use in such build- 
ings — one of the kind already described in the temporary 
cabin, the other built of whip-sawed timbers coA'ered with 
split shakes laid like shingles. In this form of construc- 
tion the gabled ends of the building are built either of 
squared logs laid one upon the other and pegged together, 
and with ends sawed at an angle corresponding to the angle 
of the roof, or are built of a frame work of whip-sawed lum- 
ber, and the space between the joists and siding stuffed with 

When duly enclosed the spaces between the joists are 
filled with earth and moss, and the floors laid. The roof 
is fitted with a galvanized chimney, and Avhen the ceiling 
has been finished the house is read v for habitatii tn. In sucli 


a house access to the garret is had either by a Ladder nailed 
against the wall, or a narrow stairway, according to the 
fancy of the builder. Glazed sashes are fitted to the win- 
dows so as to make them donble, and battened doors are 
hung with strap hinges. Most of the Ynkon houses are but 
one story in height, but some are two. In nearly all the 
roof projects from three to five feet over the front entrance, 
and a storm shed is erected by standing poles upright from 
the ground to the roof as close together as possible. By 
having the opening into this storm shed at one side, the en- 
trance to the dwelling is protected from the wind and drift- 
ing .snow. Such a dwelling as this is a palace on the Yukon. 

The poor resident in town or the new pros]3ector at the 
mines is fortunate to have a tent over his head. While lum- 
ber is plenty, cabins are expensive when labor is twelve dol- 
lars a day an-d over, and when logs sometimes have to be 
hauled some distance by dogs. One must have begun to 
take out gold dust in good paying quantities before afford- 
ing the luxury of a good log dwelling. 

At the time we reached Circle City the demand for 
capable workmen for building purposes was altogether out 
of proportion to the supply. The trading companies had 
large buildings contemplated, and any one who could swing 
an axe handily was a skilled workman and commanded large 
pay. The very lowest that was paid was ten dollars a day, 
and few could be had to work at that figure. To those who 
were skillful in fitting windows, doors, shelves, and the like, 
as high as an ounce a day was paid — seventeen dollars 
being the recognized value of an ounce of gold on the 

Tt was indeed a bustling scene which Circle City pre- 
sented in the early summer days of 189G, The banks of the 


river and the streets of the to'mi were covered with logs. 
Chips were scattered evervwhere, and the sound of the axe 
and the saw mingled with that of the squeak of the violins 
in the dance halls and the howl of the dogs. The Birch 
CYeek mines were rich and gold dnst was plenty. There 
was no such thing as an idle man if he had any disposition 
to work. People talked glibly of the coming metropolis of 
the Yukon. Xo one conld have imagined a livelier place of 
its size. Xeither cotild any one in the busy place anticipate 
that within a year it would be as dead as a door post — almost 
a silent city. 



Mkleading Rate of Wages — Cost of Bringing Provisions to the Yukon 
Valley — A Sample Price-List at a Circle City Store — Value of Fresh 
Meat — A Roast of Beef — A Woman Who Baked Bread at a Dollar 
a Loaf — Fourteen Loaves a Day on a Yukon Stove — Monotony of 
Diet — Ordinary Laws of Agriculture Upside Down — Diliiculiies 
of Raising Garden Stuff — Plenty of Berries in the Summer — A 
Dream of Agricultural Possibilities — Deceptive Flatlands — Nig- 
gerheads and How They Grow — Grass That Makes Poor Fodder — 
A Question of Transportation — Has Not Been Regarded as a Poor 
Man's Country — Competition in the Stores — Jack McQuesten — 
A Great Night at Circle City — Order of Yukon Pioneers — An 
Indication of the Hardships of Alaskan Life. 

IT may seem to many hard-worked individuals earning 
no more than two dollars a day in the thriving cities of 
the United States that the mining centers of Alaska 
mnst afford a man a fine opportunity, wdien labor is so scarce 
that it commands from ten dollars a day tipwards. But 
scarcity does not figure in this amount hardly as much as 
the cost of living. Circle City was more or less regularly 
reached by the Yukon steamers from St. Michael, and the 
trading companies have stores there, and, moreover, in the 
summer of 1896 there had been no great rush for the gold 
fields and the town was not faced by any prospects of 
scarcity of provisions. There was every promise of abun- 
dant stores at Circle City then. But to appreciate the high 




cost of pro^dsions, even when tliey are plenty, it must be 
remembered that almost everything, except gold, must come 
from the Pacific ports of the United States by the way of 
St. Michael or Juneau, and that the freight charge on the 
river route is about one hundred and twenty -five dollars per 
ton, while no one could bring over the pass more than the 
main things he needed, and sometimes, as in our case, failed 
to do that. 

"While I was at Circle City, in July of 1806, the follow^- 
iug prices were prevailing: 

Flour, S8 per hundred weight. 
Bacon, 40 cents per pound. 
Ham, 40 cents per pound. 
Beans, 15 cents per pound. 
Oatmeal, 15 cents per pound. 
Rice, 15 cents per pound 
Sugar, 25 cents per pound. 
Crackers, 25 cents per pound. 
Butter, §1 per pound. 
Soda, $1 per pound. 
Coffee, $1 per pound. 
Tea, $1.50 per pound. 
Condensed Milk, 50 cents per can. 
Vinegar, $2 per gallon. 
Corned beef, 50 cents per can. 
Baking powder, §1 per pound. 

Dried fruit, 30 to 50 cents per pound. 
Potatoes, 25 cents per pound. 
Condensed potatoes, 30 cents per 

Eggs, §2.50 per dozen. 
Lemons, $3 per dozen. 
Sulphur, saltpeter, alum, SI per 

Cathartic pills, .$2.00 per box. 
Overalls, $2.50 per pair. 
Hat, $5 and up to $15. 
Shoes, $(3 to $10. 
Cheese Cloth, 25 cents per yard. 
Common white cotton cloth, 25 

cents per yard. 

Xo cloth could be obtained for less than twenty-five 
cents per yard. The price of bettt-r qualities ranged ac- 
cordingly. Anything like a comfortable outfit f(^r the 
winter cost at least five hundred dollars at these prices, and 
it must not be supposed that work was possible every work- 
ing day in the year. The expenses of living while working 
must, of coui'se, take away much of the extra money earned, 
though one confine himself to the simple necessities of life 
in such a climate. 

A woman's enterprise 185 

One must kill or buy of the Indians all the fresh meat 
he enjoys. The awakening from a dream of a juicy beef- 
steak is very painful. The only fresh beef that I ever heard 
of in Circle City was brought over the summit and killed 
at Forty Mile, and a piece weighing ten and a half pounds 
was brought down and raffled off for the benefit of the Circle 
City Hospital. In this way the piece sold at the rate of 
nineteen dollars and twenty-seven cents per pound. 

Moose, bear, caribou, and mountain sheep furnish the 
only fresh meat to be obtained, and as a rule they must be 
hunted. Everyone was too busy for sport then, so at 
times such meat was very scarce. It readily brought twenty- 
five cents per pound by the quarter, and sometimes the price 
was much higher. Up near the mines, if one were a good 
shot, he could secure a good supply of game and caribou 
meat. As I am fond of hunting and claim to be handy 
wdtli a rifle, I went in search of game quite often between 
working hours when I was at Circle City. It was daylight 
all the time. I had very good luck in running on to bears, 
but as their hide is of no value except when they first come 
out of their holes, and as they are generally pretty lean, and 
always tough, they are hardly worth the powder and ball. 
One day when I was out hunting for caribou I came across 
a black bear and shot him, but he was useless. 

As an indication of the cost of living at Circle City, at 
this time, I may cite the enterprise of a woman with whom 
T became acquainted, and who was one of the pioneer female 
gold-hunters in this section. Mrs. Wills had lived in nil 
portions of the AVest, from T^ew Mexico to Washington, and 
liad followed vnrious occupations. But the collapse of one 
of her enterprises in Tacoma had necessitated a new move, 
and she fixed her eyes on Alaska. 


She went first to St. Michael, and obtained employment 
as a cook. She earned good wages, and, being an excellent 
cook, soon became a favorite. Hearing so many stories of 
life on the Yukon, she soon concluded that the Simon- 
pure pioneer life of Alaska was to be found only ujDon that 
river. Much to the regret of the boarders, Mrs. Wills re- 
signed her position as head of the culinary department in the 
boarding-house at St. Michael, and took passage on the 
river boat to Circle City. She took with her the regulation 
camp outfit, and soon pitched her tent at Circle City. What 
to do was the next question. After a few days of investiga- 
tion she concluded that she would set up in business for her- 
self. The very next morning the Circle City bakery took 
rank among the flourishing institutions of what was then the 
chief city of the land of the midnight sun. 

In her camp outfit she had a sheet-iron camp stove and 
two baking pans. The two pans were all that the oven 
would hold, and for that reason her " bakings " were limited 
to two loaves at a " batch." But a ready market was found 
for her bread at fifty cents a loaf. The miners soon learned 
that Mrs. AVills could " double discount " them when it 
came to a matter of baking bread, and before the week was 
over the demand for Wills's loaves was such that the price 
went up to seventy-five cents, and a few days later to one 
dollar, and there it remained for the season. 

By working fourteen hours a day she could turn out 
twenty-four loaves, and in the meantime, while the oven 
Avas doing its share of the work, Mrs. "Wills filled in the time 
washing, ironing, and mending. Buttons were sewed on at 
two bits a button, and double that price was charged for 
patches. The day's baking was always sold out a day or two 
in advance, and customers had to wait their turn. On more 


than one occasion men fought for the right to the next loaf, 
and, to obviate further dilticulties, Mrs. Wills each after- 
noon sold twenty-four slips of paper, numbered from one 
to twenty-four. The first slip sold was 'No. 1, and so 
on in rotation, until the last fellow had to take No. 24. 
Each slip was redeemable next day in bread, and Xo. 1 
called for the first loaf out of the oven, and so on down the 
line to the end ; and when ISTo. 24 was out the bakery closed 
for the night. 

When side issues, such as washing and mending, did not 
encroach too much on spare time, Mrs. Wills would bake a 
pan of biscuits and a batch or two of cake. The biscuits 
went lively, and the cake sold at one dollar and fifty cents 
a pound. Six mince pies, made of moose meat, sold at 
Christmas time for five dollars each. But Mrs. Wills was 
too busy with plain baking to give much attention to the 
fancy end of the art. Her laundry business was less flour- 
ishing, for the requirements of the miners in this direction 
are not large. Starched shirts were almost as scarce as palm 

The monotony of the ordinary Alaskan diet is something 
which requires a strong stomach and the patience of Job. I 
did not appreciate this till afterwards, when mntering in 
the Klondike, for a tenderfoot ^vill gaze in wonder at the way 
vegetation grows here in summer, and he is a]>t to be de- 
ceived by visions of fresh vegetables of mar^^elous size and 
delicious flavor. But all the ordinary laws of agriculture 
are turned upside down. With the sun shining throughout 
the twenty-four hours, the plants, never resting at night, 
hurry on with a feverish haste to maturity, but few have 
time to ripen. The summer lasts no more than eighty days, 
on an average, and though measured in sunlight, it is equal 


to one hundred and twenty days of the growing capabilities 
of the Middle States, the rapid growth of plants gives them 
such a weak vitality that the lirst breath of frost lays them 
low ; and a frost may occur at any time during the summer. 
A snow storm in August is not unusual. 

I have seen lettuce raised in excellent condition along 
the Yukon, but as the seeds will not ripen and few importa- 
tions are made, such a luxury is scarce. Cabbages will 
thrive mightily, producing enormous leaves, but, alas, they 
never form heads. Russian turnips, however, seem to be 
just suited to the short and vigorous summer season. They 
Avill grow to average five pounds in weight. Radishes will 
flourish to a certain degree, but potatoes are about as un- 
suited to the soil and climate as Florida oranges are to 
the Xorthem States. The tubei*s attain such small size 
that it takes many to make a meal, and even then much 
work must be expended in protecting the vines from the 
early frosts. 

Evenings when the sky was clear and frost was threat- 
ened, I have seen those who were tiwing to raise a " little 
garden stuff " go out and carefully suspend blankets or 
heavy ticking over the vines and plants. It would protect 
them somewhat, but would never save them entirely. Even 
success to this degree is possible only along the river bot- 
toms; nothing can be done back in the hills, where the in- 
dustrious mind's must spend their time. And when a 
woman can get a dollar a loaf for her bread, and a miner 
can get ten dollars or more a day in the hills, there will be 
little fooling away of the summer season in nursing garden 

But Alaska has some products of her ow^l which may 
vary the epicure's diet in the summer. Every third bush 


is a beiTj busli, which produces white and purple flowers, 
and then berries, of the richest hues. The berries ripen 
in two months after the first leaves appear. Cranberries 
from Alaska have been considered desirable delicacies in 
the San Fraiicisco markets for many years; they are brought 
down by the steamers in crates and boxes at a season of the 
year when cranberries are not in market on the Pacific 
Coast. They are small, wild berries, not much larger than 
peas; but they are deliciously flavored and highly prized in 
their native country. The Indians and new settlers eat 
them freely in summer, and make jellies and preserves for 
winter use. Blackberries and huckleberries are as abun- 
dant in a large part of the country as on Long Island or the 
mountains of Georgia and Carolina. Nearly all of our 
common berries are found in parts of Alaska — red and 
black currants, wild strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, 
and dewberries, and many others that are indigenous only 
to Alaska, such as the roseberries, mossberries, bearberries, 
and salmonberries. All of these are eaten fresh by the na- 
tives, and preserved by crushing and dryiug them. On 
the coast of the mainland and on the islands the inevitable 
oil of Arctic regions is utilized even in preparing the berries 
for eating. It is not uncommon to find the natives greedily 
eating a dish of crushed strawberries or blueberries, mixed 
with sugar and seal-oil — a combination that is sufficient to 
nauseflte most Americans. 

The agricultural possibilities of this region of long 
winters and short summers have recently been painted in 
hues which my obsen^ation there inclines me to think are 
much too rosy. The Secretary of Agriculture has made 
a prediction that before many years Alaska's grain and 
food products will more than equal in value all the gold 


which is now supposed to be hidden beneath the surface. 
He says: 

" The soil of Southern Alaska, along the coast, is rich 
and best suited for barley and oats. Fish will be an im- 
portant feature of the Alaskan's diet, and thus the race 
will become a seafaring one, well suited for the United 
States navy. If we send to the peojile now living there 
commissioners who oan teach them in a j^ractical man- 
ner how to raise these and other foods profitably, I believe 
the country will develop rapidly. Grass is abundant, and 
can be easily cultivated further, and by a special process 
we can teach the Alaskans how to make hay even in the 
worst kind of Alaskan climate, where it rains a little every 
day. "We would introduce whatever vegetables could be 
successfully cultivated, and make the best of the soil, now 
so rich already. 

" The winters need not be especially hard, for food will 
be abundant in the summer, and can be easily stored away 
for winter consumption. In barley alone a tremendous 
traffic could be built. More than enough barley to feed a 
greater population than is probable in a number of years 
to come can be successfully raised, and that is grain for 
which there is a constant market. I repeat, Alaska's agri- 
cultural possibilities will yield her more money than will 
ever be taken out of her gold mines." 

The realization of a dream like this would be a great 
thing for Alaska, but it is largely a region of icy mountains. 
Comparatively speaking, the flats near the rivers are of ex- 
ceedingly limited area, and many of these are less attractive 
than they look. There are great stretches of tundra cov- 
ered with clumps of grass which have sprung up sometimes 
on fields of solid ice. White people here call these grassy 
inventions of human torture '^ niogerheads," but the tenn 

"niggerhead" swamps 193 

is weak. It is not half bad enoiigli. Call them the vilest 
thing you can think of. Why is it necessary for Madam 
xs atiire to utilize every wretched spot of the earth's surface ? 
Here, for instance, was once a pond of water, and that be- 
came frozen; then a root of some kind crawled from the 
margin out on to the ice, and the wind carried dust from 
the hills and bits of decaying moss from the trees, and small 
leaves to this venturesome root. The little rootlet thrives 
under this covering, and soon a little mound is begun, and 
some seeds are blown along, and lodge in this little mound, 
and they sprout and grow a little the first year; the dead 
shoots catch more decayed or decaying stuff, and the mound 
grows higher and more seeds are lodged upon it, and more 
grass grows, and perhaps a weed, and thus each year adds 
to the height of the mound. And it widens only so far. 
When it has attained about a foot of breadth the heat of 
the sun can no longer penetrate to the center of the mound 
and it ceases its lateral growth, but grows higher, and the 
grass grows stronger because the sun's heat can warm all 
sides of the cylindrical mound. 

From all along the margin these mounds have started 
and grown, and from these other mounds have started and 
grown, but the ice foundation is always there, and in time 
the pond is covered with these mounds a foot or less in diam- 
eter and usually more than a foot in height, and the long 
grass stands up in summer, looking like a meadoAV. It has 
a distinctly agricultural look from a distance. One might 
think that a thousand cattle could be fattened on this level 
meadow in a summer. 

In winter this grass falls and tangles one's feet, and 
when you want to walk through one of these flats you must 
step over these mounds and place your foot between them. 


and you sink in the ooze that has collected there, until your 
foot touches the ice, and if you have far to go you become 
very tired, and if a foot slips or you stagger from any cause, 
down you go. Sometimes you think you can walk on the 
tops of these mounds, but you cannot. They sway under 
you and down you go on your knees in the mud between 
them. In time you quit trying to do so, and stick to the 
trail, if there be one, no matter how deep the water and 
ooze may be. 

The result is that the miners and other residents of that 
country keep as far away from a niggerhead swamp as they 
conveniently can, avoiding it as they would the plague. 

For the rest of the country, the surface is covered by 
from one foot to two of moss, and, underneath, the ever- 
lasting frost. On this a scrubby growth of trees is found, 
extending up the mountain side to an altitude of from one 
thousand to one thousand five hundred feet above the river. 
It is this which appears to those passing down the river in 
boats to be a continuation of the good timber seen along the 
banks. Timber that is fit for anything is scarce. 

Some of the islands of the Yukon have a very rich soil, 
but they are locked in ice usually from October to June, and. 
owing to the swiftness of the current, Yukon ice is not apt 
to make good skating. T once heard a woman describe it as 
an ice house blown up by dynamite. There may be through- 
out all Alaska room for a thousand farms, but the Indians 
would be altogether too lazy to work them — they would 
die first — and a white man who would begin fanning there 
when gold could be shaken out of the sand-bars all along the 
river would be set down as a man of unsound mind. 

The Alaska Commercial Company has had a couple of 
acres in a favorable spot near Forty Mile in cultivation for 


several years. The have sown oats, but they say they have 
never ripened. They made fair fodder. Good fodder for 
cattle could be had in this way by importing barley and. oats, 
but the seed would have to be brought in every season, as 
there is no kernel in the pod or shell. Those contemplating 
taking horses or cattle into the country for other purposes 
than slaughter should go in a couple of years in advance, get 
:i favorable piece of land, clear it, and prepare for the culti- 
vation of such fodder as this. Otherwise, they will have 
to import all their fodder. 

Horses have been in use at Forty Mile for several years, 
but the owners depend largely on the trading companies 
for the food for their subsistence. Mr. Harper has had 
a few horses at Selkirk for several years, the fodder for 
which he cuts from ponds in the vicinity. On this they pull 
through the winter, but they are not in a condition to do 
any work. 

Throughout the Yukon valley, wherever the soil is rich 
and fertile, a great variety of grasses grow, and cover the 
land with heavy mattings of vegetation. They constitute 
the coarse varieties, but many of the finest grazing grasses 
are seen, such as the blue joint, Avhich reaches a height of 
four or five feet, and the blue grasses. One would tliink 
that no better forage for cattle could be desired than what 
is furnished by these grasses in the Yukon Valley and 
along the coast, and that, so far as food is concerned, pigs, 
cattle, sheep, and goats could live and grow fat in the 

But grasses of such rank growth do not seem to afford 
the proper nourishment for our domestic animals, even if 
secured in good condition, and that is difficult, in view of 
the frequent rains. Of course, for the greater part of the 


year these fields are buried under tons of frozen snow, and 
the animals must be housed. To care for them is not easy 
or inexpensive in such a climate. 

Much more can be done for the opening up of Alaska 
by improving the means of transportation so that the regions 
of the Yukon may be accessible, instead of inaccessible, for a 
greater part of the year. With the Yukon open only long 
enough to enable a steamer to make two round trips from 
its mouth to the upper trading posts, and with the old Indian 
trails, fit only for Indians and dogs, and with a population 
which must import the greater part of what it consumes, 
the problem resolves itself to the simple proposition of trans- 
portation. Alaska cannot be successfully developed so long 
as tough moose hams will fetch forty dollars apiece in the 

While, therefore, the high rate of wages prevailing at 
Circle City might make Alaska seem to those who have 
never been in it like a great country for a poor man, it had 
always been a poor country up to the summer of 1896. 
There were plenty of old miners about there who had been 
on the Yukon for years and had l)arely made more than 
their " grub." When one is making money rapidly the 
temptation always is to spend it with a lavish hand. But 
even if one lives economically, he needs to strike a rich vein 
of gold in order to acquire wealth. I could see that if Joe 
and I were so fortunate as to get together two thousand 
dollars by working at high wages during the short summer, 
it would be scarcely enough to pay for taking a winter's 
outfit to the mines and putting up a poor shelter there, for 
provisions become several times more valuable by the time 
they are hauled over the rono-b trails to the mines. 

The list of prices already quoted in this chapter were 


reasonable enough for Circle City at that time, and their 
apparently high cost was not due to scarcity, but to the value 
of articles after they have been carried over four thousand 
miles, a third of the way against a swift river current. 
There was a fair competition among the stores, and at the 
head of one of them was Jack McQuesten, an old pioneer 
in the country. He has been in Alaska for over a quarter of 
a century, and was really " the father of the country." He 
had come in contact with nearly all the men who had risked 
their lives in the search for gold in its frozen soil, aiid had 
ever been their friend. It has been said that he has out- 
fitted, supported, and grub-staked more men, and kept them 
through the long winters when they were down on their 
luck, than any other person on the Yukon. Hundreds of 
men now on the river owe all the success they have to his 
help, and they know it and appreciate it. 

It was a great night at Circle City when he v/as pre- 
sented with a gold watch and chain, bearing the insignia of 
the Order of Yukon Pioneers. It was said that the watch 
cost five hundred dollars, but McQuesten's bill for enter- 
tainment was probably much more than that, for there was 
no half-way business about his generosity, and the boys 
needed no gold dust when they stepped up to the bar. 

The Order of Yukon Pioneers was started in 1890, and 
was composed only of the men who had been in the country 
since 1887. It had a very limited membership, therefore, 
till the rules were changed so as to make men eligible who 
had been in the country before 1893. They have a lodge 
at Circle City and hold meetings every Tuesday night. It 
levies on its members for the care of the sick, for the relief 
of widows, and the sendiuc out of the countr\^ of those who 
had been broken down by hard work and privations. It is 


an influence for good, and is also an indication of what sort 
of a life these pioneers were compelled to lead in a country 
which is supposed to be lined with gold. 



The Trail up Birch Creek — Some of the Gulches — Great Cost of Wood 

— The Process of Placer Mining — How the Prospector Works — 
Testing the Dirt — The Miner's Pan — The Trick of Shaking Out 
Gold — All the Fascination of Gambling — Nature Holds the Cards 

— Placer Mining Conditioned by the Climate — The Old Process of 
Sun-Thawing — Soil That Resists Picks, Dynamite, and Hydraulics 

— Where Fire Burning is Necessary — Burning at Night — A Long 
Process — Sinking through the Muck — Rockers — Sluices and 
How They are Constructed — Nature Caught in the Act — Claims 
Regulated by the Miners Themselves — The Birch Creek Yield of 

GOLD-seekers were continually going back and forth 
from Circle Cit}^ to the diggings on the npper 
waters of Birch (Jreek, and in this way I occasion- 
ally heard from my partner, who was working most of the 
time on other claims for wages, for the season was not propi- 
tious for prospecting. This is easier done after the freezing 
weather comes on. As I had managed to locate a very good 
cabin in town for onr needs while there, and had earned a 
fair snm dnring the early part of the bnilding rush, I de- 
termined to carry over a light store of provisions to fFoe, as 
he wished to remain on the creek during the winter and 
prospect as opportunities offered. 

Birch Creek empties into the Yukon more than a Imn- 



tired miles below Circle City, but in its tortuous course its 
upper waters flow but six miles from the town, though the 
headwaters are back in the mountains from sixty to one 
hundred miles away. The short portage across the neck 
of land to the creek is not difficult, though low and wet in 
places in the summer, and a hotbed of mosquitoes. The}^ 
were almost unendurable unless a wind was blowing. I 
have seen strong men on the trail through these swamps 
driven to the verge of hysterics by the swarming pests. 
The trail up the creek leads through a wild country, and 
by the time a winter's supplies have been dragged over it 
to the camps the_y are worth something. If taken in a boat 
they must be pulled against a swift current and sometimes 
up rapids. By carrying only a pack I made fair time over 
the rough trail. 

In an earlier chapter I have alluded to the discovery of 
gold in this region, an Episcopal missionary having picked 
up a nugget in returning from the Tanana River district. 
This was in 1891. By 1894 the district had been pretty 
thoroughly explored and bad yielded large results. The 
gold consisted of coarse flakes and nuggets; forty dollars a 
day was made by some men, and all did well. The drift 
is not as deep here as in some other streams, and water can 
be applied to greater advantage. I found Joe on one of 
the farthest of the most remote creeks, nearly a hun- 
dred miles from Circle City. On some of the nearer creeks 
I passed they were taking out gold in good quantities, par- 
ticularly at Deadwood Gulch, a little stream ten miles long. 
Mastodon is a rich tributary, but the very rich claims are 
rare. It was asserted on one claim there that they had 
taken out gold enough to clear one thousand dollars a day 
for seven weeks. ■ On Miller Creek there were claims to be 


had where a man coukl easily pan ont from six dollars to ten 
dollars a day, but they were not worth owning in such a 
region, for more can be made in wages on the richer claims. 

The district was in its most flourishing condition in the 
summer of 1896. ' Most of the gulches were then running, 
miners were working on double shifts, night and day, which 
at this season in this latitude are very much alike, and large 
profits were reported. On Mastodon Creek, which seemed 
to be the best producer and Avhich was thoroughly staked, 
over three hundred miners were at work. There was every 
evidence that the creeks would continue to pay well for five 
years^ and after that were the untold possibilities of 
hydraulic mining, . which might without difficulty except 
that of expense be introduced by tapping some of the creeks 
near their head. 

If some of these claims which are discarded as prac- 
tically worthless could be set down in a place nearer trans- 
portation facilities, and in a kinder climate, so that they 
could be worked continuously, they would yield fortunes. 
Joe had proceeded to a creek where the ground was un- 
doubtedly rich, but it was an expensive job to work it. By 
the time wood had been cut by men receiving twelve dollars 
a day, and hauled a distance of six or seven miles by dogs, 
it was worth about sixty-five dollars a cord. It is clear, 
therefore, that a claim must be very rich in order to pay the 
large expenses of working it. If a miner is paying the ex- 
pense of having his provisions brought out from Circle 
City, it costs sixty cents a pound in summer and fifteen 
cents in winter, the trail being so much easier in the latter 

In order to well understand the recent progress of min- 
ing in Alaska, a few facts as to placer mining in general. 


and as to tlie processes in the frozen north in partii-uhir, is 
necessary. The process in Ahaska is peculiar, and the 
novice shoukl give it some study before he starts in to make 
his fortune. It is the desire of the expert prospector to 
locate oxev river gravel, and he has a theory that the short 
side of tlie bends in the river will prove the richest. Free 
or native gold, such as is found in placer mines, is supposed 
to be brought down in the course of ages from a " mother 
lode " by the action of running water or glaciers. The 
sands and rocks of river beds, dry creeks, and gulches, there- 
fore, are the places which secure the attention of the ex- 
perienced prospector. He observes the characteristics of 
the loose rocks in ravines and gulches, or in any place where 
matter is left after freshets have subsided. The natural 
presumption is that, if the bed of a river flowing through an 
open country yields fine gold dust, larger grains will be 
found in the nearby hills and mountains from which it 
flowed. The heavier particles are, of course, looked for near 
the probable source. Sometimes gold is in dust too fine to be 
readily distinguished by the naked eye, or the dirt is so 
combined with it as to make it deceptive, and the prospector 
must proceed with the greatest care and skill. 

Having secured a place which may give the desired 
promising indications, because of surface -conditions, which 
are apt to be deceptive in Alaska, the next thing is to begin 
sinking a shaft to get down to bed-rock •• so that the value of 
the diggings may be determined. In a climate where the 
temperature runs down to sixty degrees or more below zero 
in a winter lasting for nine months of the year, Avater in 
large quantities is scarce except in the short summer. Snow 

* Bed-rock. Solid rock lying under loose detrital masses, such as sand 
and gravel. Detrital matter consists of jiarticles broken or worn away from 
the land, and carried along by the streams to be deposited elsewhere. 


may bo melted for testing, and there liave been instances 
in very rich chiims in Alaska mines where a miner conld 
wash out in his cabin enough to pay his help for taking out 
the frozen dirt. 

Both in prospecting and in sinking his shaft the miner 
makes frequent use of his pan, which is broad and shallow 
and an inseparable companion. After clearing off the 
coarse gravel and stone from a patch of ground, he secures 
a little of the finer gravel or sand in his pan, fills it with 
water and gives it a few rapid whirls and shakes, which 
brings the gold to the bottom of the pan on account of its 
greater specific gravity. IMany miners prefer to sink the 
pan of dirt under water and shake it there, in such a dex- 
terous manner as gradually to throw the lighter dirt off into 
the stream, but this cannot be practiced to a great extent in 
Alaska unless a large tub of water is used in the cabin. 
Many old miners believe that under-water jianning is so 
much better that they use such tubs in winter. An old and 
skilled miner will sometimes shake out more gold in a day 
than a beginner can in a week from the same quantity of 
dirt. I'liere is a trick about it that comes only by ex- 
perience, and out of the same gravel a greenhorn may not 
get fifty cents' w^orth of gold where an experienced man 
would get a dollar. A good man can pan a ton of gravel 
a day, but it is hard, back-breaking work. There is the 
fascination, however, of ever watching the yellow color as 
the dirt washes away, and it will keep a man at work till ho 
finds himself exhausted. It is the same fascination tliat 
is felt by the confirmed gambler, for every pan of dirt is a 
gamble. Dame Nature is dealing tliff cards. Will the 
player make a big stake, or will ho lose ? TTaving won it 
from N^ature by hard work, ho will very likely lose some of 


his winnings in an ordinary gambling game. He lives in 
an atmosphere of chance. What comes easy, goes easy. 

After the pan is shaken and held in such a way as to 
gradually wash out the sand and gravel, care being taken 
near the end of the process to avoid letting out the finer and 
heavier particles which have settled to the bottom, all that 
will be left in the pan is whatever gold there may have been 
in the dirt, mixed with black sand, which is nothing but 
jndvcrized magnetic iron ore. Should the gold thus found 
be fine, the contents may be thrown into a tub of water con- 
taining a pound or so of mercury. The gold coming in 
contact Avitli this forms an amalgam. When enough of 
this has been formed it may be fired or roasted. First it is 
squeezed through a buckskin bag to work out all the mer- 
cury possible, and what comes out is put back in the tub, 
while the contents of the bag is put in a retort, or, what is 
more probable in a mining camp, is put on a shovel and 
heated till the mercury has evaporated. The gold will re- 
main in a lump, though with more or less mercury com- 
bined with it. This washing process must be continued 
after the layer of best paying dirt is reached, for in no other 
way can the pay-streak be followed. 

While this is a process characteristic of all placer min- 
ing in Alaska, it is conditioned, like everything else, by the 
climate and the soil. When gold was first discovered in the 
Yukon valley the great drawback in successfully operating 
the rich placer mines was found to exist in the auriferous 
gravel being frozen into a solid, compact, adamantine mass, 
which the rays of the summer's sun could never melt, and 
with which the methods usually employed in washing out 
gold were totally ineffective. There seemed to be no end 
of the depth to which the frost penetrated the earth's sur- 


face, as the deepest shaft or prospect hole has yet to reach 
unfrozen gravel except in certain localities, and in such 
places no one has been able to account for the strange 
phenomenon. Various ways were tried by the miners of 
ten years ago to expedite the slow work of the sun in thaw- 
ing out the congealed mass. Picks were found to be of no 
avail, as the heaviest blows would produce but little more 
impression than it would have done on a solid block of 
granite. Dynamite was experimented with, but a heavy 
shot resulted in blowing out only a " pot hole," and had no 
effect whatever in loosening the surrounding gravel. 
Hydraulics were proven equally futile, the stream from the 
giants serving only to bore a hole in the bank against which 
it was directed. In fact, the only manner by which the 
shallow or summer diggings could be worked at all was to 
strip or burn off the heavy coating of moss covering the 
earth, thus allowing the sun to reach the gravel beneath. 
This in a day would thaw to a depth of three or four inches, 
and after the frozen muck under the moss had been thawed 
out and thrown aside, the sun could then work on the gravel. 
As fast as it thawed it could be shoveled into the sluices, and 
another like amount would be workable the day following. 
But it was an unusual summer season that would permit of 
more than ninety days' work at the sluices, and claims that 
would not pay an ounce to the shovel were abandoned. 

Then came the discovery of the Birch Creek mines, and 
the problem of profitably operating the mines in the winter 
time solved itself as a simple matter of necessity. With the 
pay-streak located from fifteen to twenty-five feet beneath 
the surface, it would have been impracticable and almost 
impossible to remove the barren eartli lying above it. 
Prospecting had to be done by burning holes in the gravel. 


A Img'e pile of logs would be fired on the spot where it was 
proposed to sink and allowed to burn over night. In the 
morning a foot in depth, possibly, would be found to have 
been thawed out, and this was shoveled aside and a fresh fire 
kindled. By continuing this operation a number of days, 
the shaft would finally reach the pay-streak, and then it be- 
came a comparatively easy matter to ascertain the probable 
worth of the claim. If the gravel panned an ounce or two 
a day, more fires were built at the bottom of the shaft, and 
" drifting " was begun with the pay-streak, the latter being 
followed the same as in a quartz lode. The night is the 
time employed to " burn/'' the fires being heaped up with 
logs just before the day's work is finished. These last all 
night, and by morning, if the amount of fuel has been 
properly gauged, nothing remains but the dying embers 
and hot ashes; the smoke and gases have all escaped, and 
the work of shoveling the loosened gravel begins without 
delay. As the shaft sinks a windlass is erected over the 
opening, and as fast as the bucket is filled the contents are 
hauled to the surface and dumped in a convenient place for 
washing the following season. 

AVhcn the drift has reached a short distance under- 
ground the bitterly cold weather of the winter has no terrors 
for the placer miner, and he prosecutes his work in com- 
parative ease and comfort. As distance from the shaft is 
gained, a wooden track is laid on the floor of the tunnel, and 
a car pushed by hand is employed to convey the gold-bearing- 
gravel from the ever-receding breast of the drift to the 
primitive hoisting works. 

"Wlio it was who first concei^'ed the idea of drifting 
under the muck banks and thawing the frozen gravel by 
means of log fires would be difficult to determine, but who- 


ever lie may be, lie deserves a monument as a perpetuation of 
his memory. The ability to mine in the winter has length- 
ened the mining season from three to eight or nine mouths. 
As soon in the fall as it becomes cold enough to freeze the 
water and prevent the shaft from filling up, tben the winter 
miner begins his labors only to cease in the spring when the 
water begins running again. During the cold weather he 
has hoisted the muck to the surface, and there lies on his 
dump many tons of gravel wherein may be a small-sized 
fortune as a compensation for his work of the winter. Ex- 
posed to the sun, the gravel quickly thaws, for it has frozen 
again after being cast upon the dump, and then it is shoveled 
into the sluices, and the glittering yellow grains of gold are 
caught by the riffles, finally finding a resting-place in the 
Inickskin sack of him who has toiled so unremittingly to 
wrest them from their gravelly bed. Placer mining in such 
a country, therefore, is a long process, involving much hard 
work under very uncomfortable conditions, and a great 
consumption of fire wood, which in most places is very ex- 
pensive. This was particularly the case on Birch Creek. 

Six, eight, ten, and twelve feet of the surface is decayed 
vegetable matter and alluvial deposit of sand in the clay, 
termed by the miners " muck." As soon as gravel is struck, 
prospecting is commenced ; that is, a pan or two of the dirt is 
washed to determine whether it is worth " keeping " or not, 
as the refuse is thrown on one side of the hole and the pay- 
dirt on the other. ISTcar to and on bed-rock the " pay " is 
found, which is generally not more than two or three feet 
thick. * 

All the way through the so-called muck which lies on 
the surface are found trees lying in every direction, and 
they appear to be similar to those growing on the hills to- 


day, but these logs and roots have evidentl}^ been deposited 
there a long time. "While bones of animals now common in 
Alaska are found in it, there have been found at the same 
depth bones of other animals belonging to much lower lati- 
tudes to-day. Well preserved horns of buffaloes have been 
found. Occasionally, in a part of frozen pay-streak nearly 
twenty feet under the surface, bits of bones will be found 
with parts of the flesh still clinging, but they quickly 
crumble when exposed to the air. 

It must not be thought, however, that the difficulties of 
the Alaskan gold-seeker are all overcome by simply sinking 
a hole through several feet of frozen earth by the process 
above indicated. The time it takes to sink a hole is meas- 
ured by its depth, as fires tliaw on an average about a foot 
a day. But should a hole be sunk in a claim without find- 
ing a good pay-streak, the process must be repeated in an- 
other locality. One claim-holder may locate at the very 
first hole, while another, on perhaps as good a claim, may 
have to sink a dozen or more, bearing in mind that his liv- 
ing expenses are all this time enormous, and, if he is hiring 
men at twelve dollars or more a day, his profits are by no 
means measured b}^ the amount of gold he takes out in a 

After the pay-streak, which is seldom more than three 
feet in thickness, is struck, the fire must be continued on the 
side of the shaft showing the best indications. This is also 
a slow process, only a few inches being thawed out in a day. 
This process is continued in the direction of the best pay, a 
distance which is governed by the thickness of the crust on 
top. If tins is twenty feet, you may drift thirty feet with 
safety, wdien a new hole or shaft has to be sunk and the drift- 
ing continued. In this way the pay-streak is taken from 
■underneath the surface in the winter until the water begins 


running in the spring, finds its way into tlie shafts, and 
hinders operations to snch an extent that they are closed. 
Preparations for the erection of dams are then made and 
sluice boxes procured. 

The washing process was in full operation at the Birch 
Creek mines in the early summer of 1896, when I made 
my trip through them, and the miners were hoarding their 
dust in anticipation of having a good time at Circle City in 
the winter. So in the case I have mentioned, where gold 
was taken out at the rate of one thousand dollars a day for 
seven weeks, it must be remembered that these miners had 
done a great deal of hard work before they had taken out 
any. They were simply cleaning up the dirt, they had so 
laboriously and expensively accumulated. After taking out 
their heavy expenses and what they squandered at the sa- 
loons and gaming tables of Circle City, it will not appear 
strange that many old miners had been operating in this re- 
gion for several years, when gold was everywhere, and still 
remained comparatively poor men. 

In placer diggings where sluicing may not be possible, 
what are called " rockers " are used for cleaning up. A 
rocker is simply a box about three feet long and two feet 
wide, the interior fitted with a sheet-iron division punched 
full of quarter-inch holes, so placed as to make the first 
division very shallow. The lower part is fitted with an in- 
clined shelf about eight inches lower at one end than at 
the other. Over this is laid a heavy woolen blanket. The 
whole is placed on two rockers much resembling the rockers 
on an old-fashioned cradle. This arrangement is set up on 
two lengths of wood convenient to the water supply. Hav- 
ing put some pay-dirt, in, with one hand the miner rocks the 
cradle, and with the other he pours in water. The finer 


matter with gold falls through to the blanket, which holds 
the fine particles of gold, while the coarser particles of dirt 
are washed on and out of the box, Avhich usually has some 
mercury on the thin slats over which the refuse runs to 
catch any gold that may have escaped the blanket. Of 
course, any large nuggets will be held on the iron division. 
At intervals the blanket is taken out and washed in a barrel 
of water containing mercury. 

Sluicing is always employed wherever possible, as it is 
much more rapid, and, when well arranged, more 
economical. It requires a good supply of water, which can 
usually be obtained on most of the Yukon creeks during 
the summer season from the little rivulets running from 
the melting snows and ice above. But the construction of 
sluices is generally an expensive operation, as if mill-sawed 
lumber is used it must be brought from a great distance, and 
if whip-sawed lumber, it requires much labor. In either 
case the cost is considerable. 

A sluice box is about ten inches in width and twelve 
feet in length, the boxes so made that they fit into each other 
like the joints of a telescope. In these are placed what are 
called riffle bars, which are strips of wood about one inch 
square and eight or ten feet long, nailed together at their 
ends so as to be parallel with each other,, and about one-half 
to three-quartos of an inch apart. These are placed longi- 
tudinally in the sluice boxes, which are set up so as to have 
an incline of two or three inches fall per foot of their length. 
A common method of an-angement is to place the slats cross- 
wise at suitable intervals, or to bore shallow holes in such 
order as to catch heavy particles. Into this system of boxes 
a stream of water is directed, which must be of sufficient 
volume to carry with it the gravel and dirt that are in the 


As soon as the sun lias attained sufficient force to tliaw 
out the surface of the dump, it is shoveled into these sluice 
boxes. The water carries down with it to the tailings, as it 
is termed, the refuse — that is, the gravel, sand, and other 
matter which is not wanted. The gold and the black sand, 
or pulverized magnetic ore, owing to their much greater 
weight, fall between the riffle bars and are held there. 

As soon as the riffle bars are filled, so that there is danger 
of the gold passing over and downward to the tailings, the 
flow of water is stopped, and what is called the clean-up is 
made; that is, the riffle bars are lifted out and the contents 
of the sluice boxes gathered and the black sand and other 
refuse separated. 

To one who has made a study of the gold leads of the 
mountains of the Pacific coast, the conditions of the placers 
of Alaska make an interesting study. Gold leads have been 
associated with glacial action, and in Alaska the frozen 
placers are in close proximity to the active glaciers grinding 
down the quartz-ribbed mountains and depositing the 
heavier substances in the furrows carved out at their feet. 
jSTo matter how ancient, therefore, the gold deposits in 
Alaska, they are recent as compared with those which till 
lately attracted the attention of the world. The frost has 
not had time to leave the ground yet. The glaciers are still 
at work. The Yukon miners have, as it were, caught N^ature 
in the act. 

Little or no attention had been paid to the rocks about 
Birch Creek, all the work being devoted to the gravel 
washed down from the sides of the gulches. Miners' laws 
governed the district. In each gulch prospectors were at 
liberty to stake out claims not already taken, the size of the 
claims being decided by a vote of the miners in each gulch 


according to the richness of the graveh When a prospector 
had staked out his claim, it was recorded by one of the 
miners elected by those at that gulch, and that was suf- 
ficient to secure him a title. Securing a claim was much 
the easiest part of it, for the district is a large one, and 
traces of gold could be found almost anywhere, but the dif- 
ficulty was to secure one that would pay for working when 
owners on the rich claims already worked to some extent 
were offering twelve dollars a day for laborers and furnish- 
ing the timber. 

These Birch Creek mines are on American territory, and 
only need economical working to make them as profitable as 
any mines in Uncle Sam's domains. Cheaper and better 
transportation facilities are required, so that the cost of pro- 
visions and of fuel shall be much less, and so that wages may 
come down. As it was, in the summer in which I spent a 
short time there, the yield was put down as five hundred 
thousand dollars, which was large considering the number 
of claims that were really worked and the number of men 
employed. Most of this sum came from a half dozen mines. 
Many, under the existing conditions, could not be thor- 
oughly worked, and many more, of course, will not pay 
when the cost of everything is so high. But in two years 
these mines had built up Circle City into a lively town, the 
second place in population in the whole territory of Alaska. 



Dowa the Yukon River — Yukon Steamers — Flat-Bottoms and Stern- 
Wheels — Carrying Machine Shops Along — A Perfect Labyrinth of 
Water — Going Wherever ItsVarying Moods Take It — Barren Islands 

— Fort Yukon — Lazy and Filthy Natives — Trading for Curios with 
Yukon Indians — Birch and Beaver Creeks — A Sudden Change — 
Out of the Flatlands into the Ramparts — Some Good-Looking 
Creeks — The Munook — The Great Tanana River — Wooding Up 

— Indian Settlements — The Women and Children — Dogs Galore 
— The Inevitable Ca^he — Nowikakat — Short Cut Portages to the 
Coast — Thrilling Journey of a Party of Miners — Almost Ex- 
hausted and Starved — Perils of Traveling in Alaska. 

AS little could be clone to advantage in mining till win- 
ter set in, and as, when I had returned to Circle 
City, a favorable opportunity was offered me to go 
down the river on one of the returning steamers, I rented 
my cabin, for which there was demand enough, and set out, 
pleased with the chance thus afforded of studying the 
mighty stream and the possibilities of its tributaries. Such 
steamers as plied on the river previous to the summer of 
1897 looked fairly well from a distance; the greater the 
distance the better they looked. They were of the stern- 
wheel, flat-bottom variety, and but for a soniPwhat pre- 
tentious smoke-stack would have looked like small barns 
built on scows. The rush of people as a result of the gold 



discoveries on Birch Creek had brought two larger and 
somewhat improved vessels up the river, but they were still 
of the stern-wheel variety, and indeed nothing else seems to 
suit the conditions. The old steamers on which the 
pioneers had to depend were usually without staterooms, 
except for the use of the officers and employes, and tempo- 
rary quarters Avere fitted up on accompanying barges when 
there was a rush of travel. At such times apartments were 
partitioned off with canvas on the barges and fitted up with 
rude bunks, supplied with bedding by the passenger himself. 
These scows were sometimes harnessed and trussed to the 
front of the steamer and pushed ahead in a clumsy fashion. 
Two years ago half a dozen dirty little '' wheelbarrows " 
plied up and down the murky stream, making semi-oc- 
casional trips to Circle City, sometimes apparently at- 
tempting to go overland in the effort to shorten the journey. 
They were good boats, as boats were known to Yukoners, 
and the pioneers of that country were thankful when the 
Circle City excitement induced the building of one or two 
additional steamers of increased power and capacity. 

The machine-shop is a necessity to every Yukon River 
steamer, for there are no repair shops along the stream, nor 
at either end. If a rudder post is bent or a shaft broken, 
the repairs must be made on board the vessel, and such re- 
pairs are made in surprisingly short time. The passenger 
soon learns that there is no use in being in a hurry. 

It was on such craft as these that the Yukon pioneer 
was compelled to travel up and down the river, but he was 
duly thankful for the opportunity, without reference to the 
possibility of going in comfort. Inured to the hardship of 
travel on foot over ice and snow, any means of locomotion 
other than his own legs was a welcome relief, and he could 


wrap his blankets about him and lie down on the floor, on 
the table, anywhere, and really enjoy life. 

Below Circle City the river spreads out into what are 
known as the Yukon flats, and it has the appearance of flow- 
ing all over the country. When once well into this maze 
of narrow channels and bars, one has little idea of what part 
of the river he is in or where the banks are. There is noth- 
ing permanent about the banks. A new channel is liable 
to eat its way almost anywhere, and the current is quite as 
fickle, though it rushes along everywhere between the flat 
islands, which stretch as far as the eye can see in any direc- 
tion. One has a feeling that he must be nearing the mouth 
of the Yukon. It is a perfect labyrinth of water. Some 
say the river here is ten miles wide, and others say fifty, and 
others guess anyivhere between those figures. No one 
seems to know, and it would be difficult to imagine any one 
making the effort to find out. There is a suspicion that the 
river has no defined main banks, but just goes wherever its 
varying moods take it. It has all the appearance of having 
given up trying to be a river at all. 

Many of these islands are merely wide stretches of sand 
and gravel, some of them covered with desolate-looking 
ridges of drift-wood. On others tall grass flourishes, but 
they are nothing but swampy lands. At high water the 
little steamers could pick their way through these channels 
with no difficulty with an Indian pilot at the wheel, but in 
low water the task is much more difficult, and one of the 
amusements of a trip is an occasional struggle of the little 
boat to pull her nose out of sand and try again, only to 
ground it somewhere else. 

But the current nowhere abates its swiftness, and it is 
less than a day's ride to Fort Yukon, which lies just above 


the Arctic Circle. It is a curious geographical fact that the 
river here, after having pursued a steady course towards the 
northwest for some seven hundred miles, turns abruptly 
to the southwest, just as if it had suddenly changed its mind, 
a thing that it seems quite capable of doing at any point 
along the flats for three hundred miles. It is here that it is 
joined by the Porcupine, which comes in from the north- 
east, and the new turn the river takes is evidently a joint ar- 
rangement of the two currents, the Porcupine having the 
best of it. 

There is a class of Indians about Fort Yukon trading in 
curios and the like, and its individuals will do almost any- 
thing but work. While I stopped there, one of the trading 
companies was endeavoring to put up some log warehouses. 
It was a convenient place for wintering provisions, for often, 
late in the season, as was afterwards more fully developed, 
the steamers find it impossible to cross the bars above the 
fort, and are compelled to leave their cargo in log caches 
here. The overseer of the company which was putting up 
these buildings had ordei*s to hire all the Indians needed for 
help, but he could not induce them to work, though he 
oifered them fi^-e dollars a day. All they had to eat was 
fish, but they subsisted on this and took it easy. They take 
no thought for the morrow. One wdiite man, his wife, and 
two children, were the only white people there at that time. 
It is the most forlorn of places, close on to the Arctic Circle, 
and on the bank of a river which, spotted with dreary 
islands, stretches away as far as the eye can see in nearly 
every direction. 

For something over a hundred miles after joined by the 
Porcupine, the Yukon flows a little south to westward, naain- 
taining its character for uncertainty. The boats keep to the 


channel along the sonth bank, but where the north main 
bank is keeping itself is purely problematical. Channels 
separate and appear to start off like other rivers bound for a 
sea in some other parts of the world, while others are com- 
ing in at various places. The islands gradually become 
larger and make a somewdiat better appearance. 

Birch Creek, the upper waters of which flow within a 
short distance of Circle City, empties into the Yukon about 
forty miles below the fort, and, according to the maps, the 
Tadrandike empties on the opposite bank from the flat lands 
of the north, but one would have to go out of the river's 
course to find the mouth of this stream. About sixty miles 
further on Beaver Creek flows in from the south. A little 
time before this had been the scene of a great stampede of 
miners from the upper Yukon. Gold had been picked up 
there and many flocked in, but the excitement had proved 
to be without cause, and the disappointed gold-seekers 
gradually scattered back to the old diggings. 

Soon after Fort Hamlin is passed, the maze of islands is 
left behind. The mighty river " gets itself together " 
again; the banks become higher and the mountains begin to 
appear. It is a great relief after steaming for nearly four 
hundred miles through a bewildering maze of water and flat 
islands. The change is so great as to almost impress 
one with awe. These miles of dreary flat lands are sud- 
denly succeeded by what are called the Lower Ramparts, 
and the Yukon Rapids sweep between bluffs and hills, which 
rise about fifteen hundred feet. The river is not more than 
half a mile wide, and seems almost as much underground 
as one of the upper canons. The bed is of granite, and the 
current has worn it away on both sides so that there are two 
good channels. 


Some promising looking streams enter tlie river along 
this stretch of monntainous banks, but they are so common 
as to attract little attention from those on the river boats. 
One of them, however, was soon to spring into importance, 
for at this very time an Indian half breed named Munook 
was stmnbling on his way to a rich discovery on one of its 
nppcr tributaries, and in another year, on one of the high 
and more beautiful spots on the south bank of the river, was 
to spring up a lively mining town called Rampart City. 

The Tanana River, which flows in from the picturesque 
country to the south, is the largest tributary of the Yukon, 
and at its mouth seems the larger river. But it is from this 
point over one thousand three hundred miles to the head- 
waters of the mighty Yukon, and in its course it has flowed 
clear around the Tanana, wdiich heads up directly to the 
territory of the gold diggings of Forty Mile and of Circle 
City. The Tanana l)rings down a vast flood of water from 
the mountainous regions of the interior, and yet it is only 
recently that a white man dipped his paddles in it. The 
late explorations have shown that it is a river of remarkable 
power and possibly of unnumbered treasures. It is navi- 
gable for steamers for nearly two hundred miles, for which 
distance the current is quite slack. Then it becomes swift 
— swifter than that of the Yukon, it is said. All the way 
on the left hand are rugged mountains and the most siib- 
lime scenery, while on the right hand, or to the south, the 
mountains stand at a distance. Colors of gold have been 
found in all of the many creeks which empty from glacial 
sources into the river, but no one has yet sunk a hole tx3 bed- 
rock. Nearly all of the prospecting that has been done has 
been by those who have crossed over the mountains from 
Forty Mile or Circle City. 


In 1896 the junction of tlie Yukon and Xanana showed 
signs of becoming the important trading point it now is. 
There has long been a trading station there of the Alaska 
Commercial C-ompanj, and now the settlement of Weare 
holds an important point at the very junction. Geographic- 
ally, this is about the center of the great territory, though it 
is over eight hundred miles in a straight line from the old 
capital of Sitka. A short distance below, St. James Mis- 
sion, attached to the Episcopal Church, has for some years 
been successfully maintained, and the changes which have 
been wrought upon some of the native children are certainly 
noticeable. As a general thing the Indians which are en- 
countered along the Yukon River are no improvement over 
those farther up. Though they are classed under diiferent 
tribes they appear quite similar until we reach the point 
where the true Eskimo makes his appearance. They have 
some good qualities and are exceedingly useful in the trade 
of the lower Yukon. 

Along the banks of the various places are wooding sta- 
tions, where the Indians cut up timber for firewood for the 
steamers, which, however, are compelled to stop much more 
frequently in facing the swift current up than on the down- 
ward passage. The appearance of a Yukon steamer is a 
great event at these remote settlements, and the whole 
population within reach of the sound of the whistle flock 
down to the banks. If wood is needed, a line of Indians, 
carrying the sticks in the primitive way, file over the gang- 
plank and scamper out again, and for such services they are 
paid fair wages, but their disposition is to trade. They take 
various articles, and many prefer to take it out iu something 
to drink. One thing they never take is soap, and yet that is 
what they most appear to need, 


Tliese settlements are for the most part all alike. They 
are thickest about places where the companies keep their 
stores, and these become the trading centers. The natives 
live in huts and tents, and there is the inevitable crowd of 
dogs, which, upon the advent of a steamer, line the bank 
and howl. It is the most dismal din imaginable. Along 
the banks also will be seen in season big salmon hanging 
from long poles drying in the sun. The children are not 
quite as thick as the dogs (nothing is in Alaska, except the 
mosquitoes), but they toddle about in their dirty garments 
as if life were something of a delight. The women come 
dowm the bank canwing queer baskets of trinkets, mostly of 
their handiwork, which gives evidence of an enormous 
amount of patience and skill in the use of crude materials — 
baskets of unique shape woven very fine from some of the 
long grass of the valley, and dyed in the most striking colors, 
moccasins of rare quality, and so on. 

Wherever there are settlements, and where there are 
none, for that matter, the cache appears. These curious 
log boxes on stilts are sprinkled all over Alaska, for dogs 
are everywhere and the cache is an absolute necessity. 
They must be made to hold whatever is fit to eat, and a 
good deal that is unfit, for the dog will eat both. The cache 
is the lock and key of Alaska. And the only thief is this 
little animal, which will in harness haul his master for miles 
over the Arctic country, and then go to sleep in a snow 

One of the important stations which we come to in pass- 
ing down this part of the river is Xowikakat, about seventy 
miles below the mouth of the Tanana. It is situated on the 
north bank and upon a fine bay, which is connected by a nar- 
row entrance with the Yukon. In passing it is easy to 


judge of the nature of the soil from the crumbling banks. 
Layers of sand show the deposits of annual inundations. In 
many places where the bank has been undermined these 
layers may be counted by the hundred, and all the way great 
masses of dirt from the banks are hurried off by the swift 
current to the sea. 

When the river has flowed on in its westward course to 
w^ithin about eighty miles of the sea, it takes another sudden 
turn and proceeds southward, for two hundred miles, 
parallel with the coast. This turn is made where the 
Koyukuk enters from the north, and, as above at the junc- 
tion of the Porcupine, the river dodges off in another direc- 
tion like one billiard ball hit by another. The Koyukuk has 
been well explored, but not very thoroughly prospected. 
Gold has been found in large quantities on it, and as much 
as a hundred dollars a day has been made on some of its bars 
by the use of a rocker. But little or nothing has been done 
on its important creeks, though the presence of coarse gold 
in the bars would imply unusual richness somewhere 
further up. The river at its mouth is shallow, and for some 
distance up has many of the characteristics of the Yukon 
and Tanana. About a hundred miles from the mouth the 
mountains begin to hem in the banks, but it can be navi- 
gated for nearly five hundred miles. This accessibility 
should make it attractive to prospectors, for the headwaters 
lie in the same belt of mountains that hold the gold-bearing 
creeks of the upper Yukon. The worst thing against it is 
that so much of it lies above the Arctic circle. 

The Yukon, after its union with the Koyukuk, flows 
with a still swifter cui-rent along stretches of uninviting 
country, among marshy islands and sloughs, and at one place 
is only about fifty miles from the sea. Two trails or port- 


ages from the river to St. Michael or T^nahaklik have been in 
use for some time by the Indians and missionaries, but 
either is a hard road to travel, especially in the summer, 
and dangerous after the winter sets in. Winter, however, 
is the time when it becomes useful as a short cut from the in- 
terior after the river has frozen at its mouth. A party 
of miners once tried to reach St. Michael over this route and 
had an exceedingly hazardous trip. It teaches the lesson 
that traveling in Alaska is perilous unless amply provided 
for. They had only a few blankets and barely enough pro- 
visions for the trip. They walked over the frozen sloughs 
with the ice cracking under them at e\'ery step. Sometimes 
they had to lie flat on their stomachs and creep along, push- 
ing their blankets ahead of them, in order to keep the ice 
from giving way under their weight. They knew that if 
any one went through that would be the end of him. There 
would be no possibility of getting him out. One of them 
gave out the first day, and they divided his load among the 
others and helped him along as best they could. 

The first night they slept in an abandoned Eskimo win- 
ter house that was full of mice and vermin. That is, they 
stayed in it, but slept little, because the moment they 
dropped ofF the mice began nibbling at their noses and run- 
ning down their necks. The next night they stayed in one 
of the inhabited Eskimo houses, and it was a million times 
worse than the other. There were seventeen of them 
crowded with ten Eskimos into an underground hut, without 
a breath of fresh air, and with all the bad smells imaginable 
reeking off the filthy Indians. They gagged and stifled and 
suffocated all night long, and the next night they took to 
the open. It was storming, and bitter, bitter cold. Five 
of them had onlv four blankets between them, and thev 


were so near freezing that they were afraid to sleep. Tliey 
stumbled and crept along, uncertain whether or not they 
were even going in the right direction. On the second day 
after the first night they slept out another man broke 
down. He was a man of fine courage, but so utterly spent 
and ill that they could scarcely get him along. He would 
stumble and fall in his tracks, and before they could reach 
him he would be asleep from exhaustion. Much of the 
time that day they had to carry him in their arms. Nearly 
all day there was an awful storm of howling wind and snow 
and rain, and all were wet to the skin. But the^ kept right 
on as rapidly as they could make their way across the tundra, 
and when night came crawled into the shelter of a lake bank 
and made a fire. They had run out of provisions and had 
left only a flapjack and a sliver of bacon for each. They 
put the sickest man into the middle of the group and all 
huddled around him, trying to keep him warm through the 

It was a sorry-looking crowd that left that camp the 
next morning. They knew not where they were, or if they 
were going in the right direction, or how soon they might 
have to lie down and die of exhaustion and starvation. But 
they drew up their belts, set their teeth, took the sick man 
on their shoulders, and started on. The weather was not 
quite so cold as it had been. It was warm enough to rain, 
and the water was just pouring out of the sky. At last they 
reached the top of the first hill and saw St. ]\richael l)clow 
them. They were six days traveling that one hundred and 
ten miles. 

The portage from N"ulato leads to Unalaklik and is the 
least difficulty, but neither of these trails offers any advan- 
tages except as a short cut to the base of supplies. At this 


point the river flows within about fifty miles from the sea 
and not much further than that from St. Michael, but it is 
about six hundred miles to that port by way of the river, 

Alaska is a difficult country to get into, and equally dif- 
ficult to get out of. The erratic Yukon has all the appear- 
ances of having met the latter difficulty. During its long 
course it runs tow^ards every point in the compass, and in 
some places seems to be running in all directions at once. 



Holy Cross Mission — Soap at Last Has Legal-Tender Value — Some 
Domestic Scenes — Close Race with the Climate — The Sisters of 
St. Anne — Mass in a Log Church — The Untutored Innuits — 
Their Unpleasant Environment — Queer Heirlooms — Geese aud 
Ducks Find a Favorable Abode — The Trip to the Coast — St. 
Michael — Why Ocean Steamers have to Anchor a Mile and a Half 
Out — Alaska Commercial Company — Fort Get-There — A Lone 
Government Official — The Question of Transferring Cargoes — 
Characteristics of the Natives — Watching a Chance to Reach the 
Yukon's Mouth — Difficulties of Getting in with a Load — Breast- 
ing the Swift Current — A Hard Nut to Crack — Returning up 
the River. 

AS we proceeded down the river towards Anvik, the 
high ground ceased to come down to the water's 
edge, and the flat lands began to reappear, though 
the horizon is met by low hills some distance away. At 
some points rise lofty clay cliffs, made np of various colors. 
Spruce and fir trees, poplars and willows, are sprinkled 
along, but they do not extend back far into the country, 
which rapidly becomes more and more marshy and dreary. 
While stopping at Anvik, our attention was divided be- 
tween the strange old trading station, with its storehouses 
on stilts, and the ancient Russian mission, with its silver 

candelabra, luminous wall paintings, and sacred relics. 



Much more progress seems to have been made mth the 
natives at the Holy Cross Mission, a short distance further 
down, though I think they must be a better class naturally. 
Here a cake of soap seems to have considerable legal-tender 
value, and some of the children are attractively clad in the 
garments of civilization, and wear clean faces, as well as 
the inevitable Jnnuit smile. The buildings of the Holy 
Cross Mission are well constructed, and include a church, 
two schools — one for boys, another for girls; a convent, 
and the necessary outbuildings for a well-ordered farm. 
Large cultivated fields adjoin the establishment, and in 
them vegetables of prodigious size are grown, as well as 
strawberries. But it is a close race with the climate. Upon 
the hillsides, in well-kept terraces, the more delicate plants 
are grown, and in the dooryard sweet mignonette, phlox, 
pansies, violets, nasturtiums, marguerites, dahlias, and other 
homelike llowers flourish in the summer months, nurtured 
by the slender hands and tender solicitude of the Sisters of 
St. Anne. These heroic women have immured themselves 
in this inhospital)le region, and have undertaken to subdue 
nature and nature's children by gentle persistency, and 
their efforts are telling in the manifold results to be ob- 
served about them. 

But being unfitted for Innuit life by these civilizing in- 
fluences, the wonder is what is to become of them and their 
acquirements in such a country. 

The school has its press, and has issued several volumes 
in the native tongue. 

There is the great log bani. with its well-filled hay-loft, 
and even a cow; the haystack outside, and various other 
evidences of rural domesticity and comfort. There are the 
wofully homely but peachy-cheeked native girls, neatly 


clad in their uniform ginghams, with a delicious French ac- 
cent in their very precise English, the source of which be- 
comes apparent in conversation with these sisters of St. 
Anne. And all these wonders compensate the traveler for 
the delay of several hours usually made there for the pur- 
pose of obtaining wood, cleaning boilers, and giving the 
passengers a pleasant diversion. It has grown to be the 
custom of the mission to hold special services whenever 
a vessel is in port, and the chorus of fresh young Indian 
voices in the mass rings from the organ loft in the church 
of logs with much impressiveness, set in these unique sur- 
roundings in a desolate country. 

These Innuit people are a queer lot, the untutored 
housed in their squatty mounds of earth, the entrances to 
which are holes under ground, and subsisting on mixtures 
the flavor of which nearly kills a white man. They are, 
however, as a whole, niuch superior to the Indians of the 
interior, being a trifle less lazy. They are used by the com- 
panies to man their steamers, but if one can shirk work he 
will. They seem to look on the industry of tlie white man 
as a great exhibition of foolishness. They live in a country 
which in summer is a great flat swale full of bog holes, slimy 
and decaying peat, innumerable sloughs, shallow and stag- 
nant, and from which swarms of mosquitoes rise to fairly 
destroy any animal life. The insects come out of tlieiv 
watery pupse with the earliest growth of spring vegetation, 
early in May, and remain in clouds till destroyed by the 
frosts of September. The natives seldom go into the woods 
at this summer season, and their dogs, though protected by 
their long hair, sometimes die from bites about their eyes 
and paws. Close-haired beasts, like horses and cattle, could 
not live a month, unless protected by man. 


In the winter and early spring fierce gales of wind at 
zero temperature sweep over these fiats of Alaska in constant 
succession, and, although it is in this season that land travel 
is easiest, it is full of dangers t-o any but the natives, who are 
muffled in their skin parkas. Their undergarments con- 
sist mostly of a skin shirt, which is handed down from one 
generation to another, but it is difiicult for an inexperienced 
white man to tell whether the odor of one of these garments 
belongs to the present owner or to one of his more or less re- 
mote ancestors. 

The bluifs which here and there come down to the river 
are desolate enough, with their barren slopes, but they give 
the only indication that the country is not all under water. 
The channel zigzag's from side to side in a way common to 
such swift bodies of water, which are constantly washing 
out and building up bars and islets, and sweeping down in 
its resistless flood an immense aggregate of soil and timber. 
The banks, where they rise above this surging current, 
which runs at an average of eight miles an hour, are con- 
tinuall}' caving down, and so sudden and precipitate are 
these landslides sometimes that any craft in their way is 
liable to be destroyed. 

"When the Yukon has in its tortuous career again turned 
towards the coast, it manages somehow in the course of 
over one hundred miles to empty itself. It makes a very 
bad job of it. It breaks up into a labyrinth of blind, mis- 
leading channels, slough and swamps, which extend over 
an immense territory with a most mournful and distressing 
prospect. The country itself is scarcely above the level 
of the tides, and is covered with a monotonous cloak of 
scrubby willows and rank sedges. It is in summer water, 
water — here, there, and everywhere, — a vast inland sea. 


filled with thousands and thousands of swale islets scarcely 
peeping above the surface. 

Myriads of geese, ducks, and wading water fowl resort 
to this desolation, where in the countless pools and the thick 
covers of tall grass and sedge they are provided mth food 
and protection from their enemies. With good luck and a 
good pilot, the steamer finally works its way out by the 
northern channel, and reaches the sea at Kutlik, which is a 
meagre settlement where the steamers take on drift wood. 
The rest of the trip is along the coast. A voyage in one of 
these small, flat-bottom boats of the Yukon, is a good deal 
like knocking about the Atlantic on a plank, unless the 
weather is very favorable. In this region it has few such 
agreeable moods. 

A cursory glance at St. Michael harbor tells why the 
question of getting supplies up the Yukon is a serious one 
to overcome, even were the other conditions partially favor- 
able. The harbor is but little more than a crescent on the 
shores of isTorton Sound. It is neither deep nor well-pro- 
tected. The port itself is on an island, about five by 
eighteen miles, shaped something like an ink spot, and sep- 
arated from the mainland by a narrow slough. The hills 
of the mainland are some four or five miles back from the 
shore to the south. At the other points tundra is broken 
only by rolling hills, which are hardly more tlian large 

Ocean steamers have to make a wide detour away from 
the mouth of the Yukon on account of the dirt it has been 
pouring into the sea, and St, Michael is the only place where 
they can get within a hundred miles of it, but steamers 
drawing over twenty feet anchor about a mile and a half, 
even, from St. Michael, and none of the vessels lie in nearer 


than lialf a mile from the Alaska Commercial Company's 
wharf. The pQit is a clustering village of some thirty or 
more small houses, and is nearly wholly given over to the 
interests of the Alaska Commercial Company. Scattered 
huts and Eskimo dwellings make up the rest of its entirety. 
Half a mile further on is now Fort Get-There, headquarters 
for the Xorth American Transportation and Trading Com- 
pany. The iskmd is undoubtedly of volcanic origin, it be- 
ing nothing more than volcanic rock and tundra, entirely 
treeless, and, even at this season, dreary-looking. The 
tundra is nothing but the moss and peat covering rock. 
Soil there is none. The tundra may vary up to two feet 
in de]3th, but below this it is frozen solid at all times of the 
year. Imagine agiieulture where the plow would turn 
up ice and frozen moss at from eight inches down beneath 
the surface. In spite of this the grass is almost knee-deep, 
and bright-colored wild flowers are luxurious in their gTOwth 
and profusion. Innumerable small ponds break the sur- 
face, filled with water which seej^s through the moss, and 
which is neither palatable nor good. It appears to be im- 
pregnated with alkali. All the water used by the Com- 
mercial Company's post is brought from the mainland by 
boat. That at Fort Get-There is said to be filtered from 
the ponds. 

The fii'st settlement here was made by the Rusvstans in 
1836. At the time of the purchase of Alaska this fort and 
post were a part of the transfer, about one hundred thousand 
dollars being paid for the buildings and fortifications. The 
United States must have let their interest go by default, as 
now all that i-s left is a small blockhouse and half a dozen 
small cannon, and even these are a part and parcel of the 
Commercial Company's post. Our lone government ofli- 


cial, deputy collector of customs, has his office in a dwell- 
ing rented from the Alaska Commercial Company. 

St. Michael is eighty miles, at least, north of the pass 
l)y which the steamers enter the river, and the river proper 
is over a hundred miles further on, as we have seen, the 
extent of its delta being second to none in the world. After 
an ocean steamship reaches St. Michael the question of get- 
ting its cargo ashore and up the river commences in real 
earnest. Everything has to be lightered from the boat to 
the warehouses, which, with the present improved facilities, 
is tedious and exasperating. A small launch and two scows 
have constituted the outfit. Lighterage is also subject to 
the conditions of the weather, for the wind frequently blows 
here at a terrific rate. When the river steamers are in they 
take in cargo alongside the ship, which greatly expedites 
matters. Having been loaded, the river steamer must 
watch its chance to cross JSTorton Sound to the Aphoon 
IMouth, and thence over a hundred miles to the main river. 
This must all be done between June 15th and October 1st. 
Sometimes the river starts freezing by the middle of Sep- 
tember, and St. Michael's Bay has never been opened before 
June 18th. The sound freezes over early in winter, and 
seldom is opened before June 20th. One of the inhabitants 
very tersely puts the situation thus : 

" For nine months it means from thirty to sixty degrees 
below, and everything frozen over. For two months it's 
mosquitoes, and for the other one month, it depends on the 
weather whether it is fog or sunshine." In spite of this, 
the people here do not seem to be particularly discontented. 
For ages the natives have lived in these ice-bound regions 
of the north, and have met and overcome the most inhos- 
pitable conditions that could confront human beings. Phys- 


ically tlioy are good specimens of manhood. Mentally 
tliey are far superior to most savage tribes. In their do- 
mestic pursuits they are skilled to a degTee that challenges 
admiration. They are inventive, and out of the slender re- 
sources of their native land they have gathered much that 
would be accounted wealth if the arts of civilization had 
not intruded. They have learned to tan the hides of the 
seal and walrus into leather that is waterproof and resists 
wear like iron, "With it they construct their kyaks and 
canoes and their summer dwellings. Out of the walrus 
tusks they fashion implements of the chase, and ornament 
them with faithful likenesses of the animals, birds, and fish 
with which they are familiar. Ivory-carving is an art with 
them. The women sew, and make the fur garments, and 
boots and shoes that are worn by all. They are a merry 
race, giving themselves up to pleasure completely when the 
season for labor has passed. Honest and truthful to a de- 
gree, they are trustful of the stranger, and hospitable, too, 
though to the newcomer their hospitality is sometimes op- 

The journey from St. Michael to the mouths of the 
Yukon, and thence up its swift current, pushing a barge, 
is a much longer and more serious task. AVe were fortunate 
in connections, and the little stern-wheeler and barge were 
soon loaded, ready to make the spurt across the sound. The 
weather was caught in a favorable mood, and we were 
quickly in the safer waters, where narrow banks like dikes 
rise out of the sea and extend oceanward for miles, inclosing 
the channel. 

These narrow strips of land resemble great wliarves or 
breakwaters when seen from the ocean side. The practical 
navigator anchors his craft in the lee of these banks to wait 


a favoring tide, and when it rises pushes his vessel forward 
with all possible speed to cross the shallows at the entrance, 
nor stops until the first station of the journey up the river 
is reached at Kutlik. 

Only at high tide, or when the river is very high, is it 
safe to push loaded boats over these bars, for once caught 
on them it may be a matter of weeks before the boat can 
be got off and the journey resumed. There is more or less 
of this all the way up the river. As one traveler expressed 
it, " it is touch and go, or touch and not go," much of the 
way. There can be no time-table. 

The river proper is not generally entered until the 
second day out from St. Michael. During all this time the 
steamer has been winding in and out, seeming never to 
directly approach the range of distant hills that marks the 
beginning of the mainland, yet ever coming nearer through 
the sinuous channel. Suddenly the steamer emerges from 
the narrow and shallow w^ay into a broad, swift-moving 
current confined between something like banks, and point- 
ing a long, straight, dreary course toward the mountains. 
The pulse of the engines quicken, there is a straining of 
timbers, and with quick leaps forward the steamer breasts 
the mighty current, and backward from her bow the white 
foam curls as she rushes onward. 

But it is up-hill work. Occasionally the strong ma- 
chinery, which takes up most of the room in the boat, will 
break down, and the machine shop, which has to be a fea- 
ture of Yukon craft, is kept busy. Or perhaps the wood 
gives out before a station is reached, and the crew, and, pos- 
sibly, the passengers, are brought into service to cut a fresh 
supply from the banks. As the little steamer puffs along 
the incidents observed in coming down the river are re- 


pcatcd. Tlie natives tlirong to the landings, and when vil- 
lages are passed, the Indians and dogs line the banks, in 
picturesque confusion. There is a sort of delight in riding 
swiftly down the current while these scenes are j^assing in 
panorama, but in struggling ui>, day after day, the monot- 
ony is tedious, though everyone tries to make the best of it. 

There can be no question that the river route to the gold 
regions of the upper Yukon, with all its drawbacks, and the 
length of time it consumes, is the least dangerous, the easiest 
and the most agreeable. It must in the future be made to 
play a great part in the development of Alaska, and yet, 
for commercial purposes, it is a hard nut to crack. It is a 
strange river in a strange country. 

If Alaska still belonged to Russia, and development had 
to come from Kamschatka and Siberia, its position would 
be right enough, but it is wrong end to for the United States. 
Access to it involves the crossing of two turbulent seas, the 
ISTorth Pacific and Bering Sea, three thousand miles to a far 
northern point, then in a horseshoe route up and south 
again, over a rapid current and shallow and shifting bed 
that at the best has but little more than four months per 
year of ticklish navigation. 

Even with improved facilities it must always be expen- 
sive business to carry freight so long a distance. All efforts 
to improve the channel must be wasted, because of the swift 
nature of the river, which is continually pouring down silt 
and constructing its own shallow channels. In some places 
the na^ngable way is here to-day and gone somewhere else 
to-morrow. It is almost impossible to mark a channel at the 
mouth, for the movement of the ice in Bering Sea is con- 
tinually changing the depths at this point, so that what 
mis'lit be the channel one season would not be the next. 


From this cause, and hioli winds making it too rough for 
river steamers to cross the intervening eighty miles from St. 
Michael to the mouth, there is much delay here, and it would 
be impossible to fix regular dates of sailing. To deepen 
one of the channels sufficiently to allow ocean vessels to 
enter the mouth of the river would be very expensive, and 
even when done could hardly be expected, under the con- 
ditions, to be permanent. 

In spite of all the difficulties, the transportation com- 
panies have struggled nobly to provide for the necessities 
of the increasing population at the mines, and it remains 
the only way by which provisions can be carried in in large 
quantities. To the people there these little river steamers 
mean life, if winter is to be spent in the interior, and unless 
winters are spent in the interior there can be no develop- 
ment of the mines. It is then that the digging must be 

Meeting with generally favorable conditions on our 
way up the river, we arrived at Circle City in good time. 
Joe was down from the mines for another load of supplies, 
and he informed me that so far as he had worked the ground 
where our claims were the prospects were good, and he pro- 
posed to stock up with provisions and continue the work 
through the winter. It seemed best for me to continue on 
the steamer up to Forty ]\Iile and seek to make some arrange- 
ments, if possible, for the working of our claims there be- 
fore returning to Circle City for the winter. So up the 
river I went, little dreaming of the events which had thrown 
the miners of the upper Yukon into a fever of excitement. 



Something Has Happened — Forty Mile Almost Deserted — A Genuine 
Stampede — The Discovery on the Thron-diuck or Klondike — 
Henderson's Find on Gold Bottom — He Returns for Provisions — 
Meeting Cormack's Fishing Party — He Tells of His Discovery — 
Cormack Concludes to Find Gold Bottom — Over the Trail — Re~ 
turns to His Fishing Camp — Prospects a Little on His Way— - 
Stumbles on a Good Pan on Bonanza Creek — Claims for Himself, 
Tagish Charlie, and Tagish Jim — Siwash George's Reputation for 
Truth and Veracity — Where Did He Get the Gold ? — Tremendous 
Excitement — Forty Mile Deserted — Old Miners Lack Faith — 
Skim Diggings — Highly-Colored Tales — I Conclude to Go and 
See for Myself — Poling Up Stream — Returning Prospectors Shoot 
By Us — "It's a Big Thing, Boys" — Never Mind the Blisters — 
Tired and Footsore — A Lively Camp — Trying to Sleep — Ten 
Dollars to the Pan. 

WHEN we readied Eorty Mile it was at once appa- 
rent that sometliing had happened to that lively 
little settlement with which \^e had become ac- 
quainted a few weeks before on onr swift trip down the 
river. A great change had come over it, and Ave were not 
long in discovering the reason. The greater part of the 
place had vanished, moved bag and baggage to the " Thron- 
diuck," the moose valley forty miles above. It was here 
that we heard the story of the " Klondike " discovery. 

There is some dissimilarity in the accounts of how the 



discovery was made, but tlie most reliable seems to show 
that the credit for it in the first instance should be given to 
three men, Kobert Henderson, a Canadian, a native of 
Prince Edward Island, Frank Swanson, a Norwegian, and 
another man named Munson, who, in July, 1896, were pros- 
pecting on Indian Creek, which, as will be observed by the 
map, empties into the Yukon some twenty-five miles above 
the Klondike. 

They proceeded up the creek without finding sufficient 
to satisfy them until they reached Dominion Creek, and 
after prospecting there they crossed over the divide and 
found Gold Bottom, where they got good prospects and 
went to work. Gold Bottom is a little creek whose head- 
waters are very close to Dominion Creek. It flows north- 
ward, emptying into another creek, which, in turn, empties 
into the Klondike about twelve miles from its mouth. It is 
said that the attention of these prospectors was fii-st directed 
to Gold Bottom by the stories told by Indian fishermen. 
But these stories had often been told, and little confidence 
was placed in the acuteness of the Indians of this region in 
noticing traces of the yellow metal. 

The prospectors kept at work for some days with results 
that seemed promising, but, provisions running short, Hen- 
derson retraced his steps to the mouth of Indian Creek, 
leaving the other two at work. From the mouth of Indian 
Creek he went up to Sixty Mile, but failing to obtain a sup- 
ply there he had to make for Forty Mile. On ihe way down 
he passed an old mining comrade named George W. Cor- 
rnack, a native of California, wdio had associated witli him 
two Indians, Tagish Jim and Tagish Charlie, natives of the 
upper waters of the Yukon. Cormack was what is known 
as a " squaw man," having, like many other pioneers in the 


country, married an Indian woman, and thus liaving be- 
come more closely associated witli the "Stick" Indian ways. 
He was commonly called " Siwasli George." AYitb liis In- 
dian associates lie had been fishing near the mouth of the 
Klondike for some days, but without much success, as the 
salmon did not run up well in the simimer of 1896. He 
had heard stories of the Indians as to traces of gold on the 
creeks emptying into the Klondike, but like most of the old- 
timers had paid little attention to them, and in his Indian 
life had looked upon the salmon season as a time when the 
energies must be expended in laying up a store of fish for the 

The scene as Henderson came drifting down the rapid- 
flowing Yukon towards the little camp near the mouth of 
the Klondike, where Cormack and his associates were con- 
ducting their unsuccessful fishing operations, may be easily 
imagined. Here M'ith majestic swiftness the great river rolls 
between its steep banks, on which plants and flowers flourish 
in the colors and exuberance characteristic of a Yukon 
summer. To the voyager it was a weird, picturesque scene, 
as the sun cast a flood of light on the sweeping river and the 
steep mountains, fringed with green and tipped with streaks 
of white, and fell brightly on the camp of Cormack, his In- 
dians, and his dogs. An opportunity for a brief companion- 
ship in these solitudes is seldom missed, and Henderson 
steered to the camp, where items of news were exchanged. 

It is one of the articles of the miner's code that he shall 
proclaim all discoveries made by him as soon as possible, 
and Henderson, who had already dropped the word to a few 
at Sixty Mile, to which place he had first gone for pro- 
visions, but without success, at once advised Cormack of the 
discovery on .Gold Bottom, and advised him to try there. 


Making inquiries of the local Indians as to the situation of 
Gold Bottom, Cormack learned the route to it, and, along 
with the two Indians mentioned, started, climbing over the 
ridge which divides the valley of the Yukon from the valley 
of the creek now called Bonanza, down into that creek and 
up it to the rich stream now known as Eldorado. It was a 
rough, agonizing journey, but Cormack and his Indians 
were hardened to such conditions. They went up it about 
three miles and then followed the ridge dividing its waters 
from those of Bonanza until they struck the watershed 
between Indian Creek and Klondike, along which they trav- 
eled until they reached the head of the creek that they as- 
sumed to be the Gold Bottom. They went down, found 
Swanson and Munson at work, but Cormack was not sat- 
isfied with the prospects there. They Avere fair, but not 
sufficient to justify the conclusion that placers of exceeding 
richness lay in streaks under the frozen soil. Often had 
prospectors been tempted into these hills only to work their 
way out in disgust to seek provisions. Cormack determined 
to return to his fishing, prospecting the creek from its head 
downwards, as it lay in the direction of his camp. 

He found nothing of note until he came down about 
midway, where from a little nook in a bend of the creek he 
panned out a good prospect. This encouraged him to try 
again. He did so, and in a few moments panned out twelve 
dollars and seventy-five cents, which he put in an old cart- 
ridge shell and corked with a piece of stick. This was on 
August 10, 189G. The next day he staked discovery claim 
and l!^o. 1 below for himself, ISTo. 2 for Tagish Charlie, and 
No. 1 above for Tagish Jim. He then made his way down 
the creek as fast as possible and went down the river for a 

supply of provisions. 


On the way he met several miners and informed them of 
his discovery. At first they would not believe him, as his 
reputation for truth was not above par. These miners said 
they could not tell when he was telling the truth, if he ever 
was. Yet there was no question about the man having 
the twelve dollars and seventy-five cents in gold. The only 
question, then, was, Where did he get it? He had not been 
up the Sixty Mile, nor yet the Forty Mile, and he must have 
got it somewhere near where he was engaged in fishing, and 
that was right at the mouth of the Klondike. There must 
be gold there somewhere. 

Then followed the excitement. It takes very little to 
start a stampede of miners. Boatload after boatload of men 
went up from Forty Mile. They went up any how and 
any way, starting at all times of the day and night. Men 
who had been drunk for weeks and weeks, in fact, were 
tumbled into the boats and taken up Avithout any knowledge 
that they were travelers. One man, it was related, was so 
drunk that he did not realize that he had left Forty Mile 
until he was more than two-thirds of the way to the Klon- 
dike. Yet this same man is settled on one of the best of 

In less than three days every boat had gone from Fort 
Cudahy and the town of Forty Mile, and only enough 
people were left to watch the business houses and the police 
barracks, w^hile a few who could not obtain boats were act- 
ing in the most distracted manner. ISTo one knew anything 
about the richness of the ncAV discoveries; they only knew 
that a man had been there and had come away with a few 
gold nuggets. 

I knew enoTigh of miners' stampedes not to be greatly 
interested in the new development at Forty Mile. I was 

"big pans" 245 

aware that there had been at that place a lot of miners who 
had been having poor luck, and leading a very unsatisfac- 
tory existence. They were the bluest of the blue, for they 
had been tramping over the rough trails in the country 
back from the Yukon in the hopes of making a strike, had 
failed, and were, as the winter season approached, com- 
pletely disgusted with the country. Those who had been 
working for wages in some of the paying mines were better 
off, but the moment the Klondike news came they threw up 
their jobs, and some owners of the mines on Forty Mile 
either stopped work or sold out their claims, and departed 
with the rest. A large number of them rushed off mthout 
provisions or the means to obtain them. 

Very soon some of these came down the river, having 
located claims, and then it was learned that there was really 
something on the Klondike w^orth traveling after. " It's a 
big thing," they said. " Everybody is finding big pans." 
They were speaking comparatively, for none of the really 
big finds had been made as yet. The surface pans were 
large as compared wdtli those that the miners had been ac- 
customed to in the region. It was easy enough to find gold, 
but the thing was to find it fast enough to pay. A " grub- 
stake " strike, by which one might succeed in obtaining a 
winter's outfit, Avas something. All the returned miners 
could say was that the surface was good, and '' if it went 
down it would be the biggest thing on earth." There was 
a belief among those remaining at Forty j\Iile that they were 
only what are called " skim diggings." This impression 
was intensified by a few old miners who had come back 
either in disgust or highly skeptical. They said the 
valley was too wide, that the -willow^s did not lean the right 
way, and that the waters did not taste right. It was simply 



another crazy staiii])C'de. Sonic of tlieni did not even wait 
to stake out a claim, while others staked them and sold them 
for what they could get, thinking themselves in luck to do 
that. The creek had been staked principally by " chee- 
chacoes," as the Indians call them, or tenderfeet. So little 
faith was shown at Forty Mile that some of the claim- 
holders could not obtain " gTub " at the stores in exchange 
for their prospects. 

But more and more highly colored tales began to come 
down, though no one, so far as we could hear, had reached 
bed-rock as yet, and I determined that I would put out and 
see for myself. I knew it would be an impossibility for one 
man to Avork a boat up the rapid Yukon, so I picked out a 
helper, with w^hom I was well acquainted, from among the 
feverish throng that were waiting for a chance to go up. 
AVe threw a tent, a stove, and a month's provisions into a 
boat, and started off, but before we had got far we overtook 
two men who insisted that their happiness in this world, 
and, perhaps, in the next, depended upon our taking them 
along with us. They would pull the boat, do anything, if 
we w^ould only let them come in. So we did. 

AVorking up stream with a loaded boat is a laborious 
undertaking. The current is too swift to pennit of rowing 
or paddling except for occasional short stretches, and so we 
had to pole most of the way, and when that failed we had 
to tow or " trick " the boat along. These two men would 
grasp the tow line and pull with all their strength, for they 
were anxious to make the best time possible, but neither of 
them were experts in handling a boat in the peculiar 
methods required on the Yukon. ]\Iy brief summer's ex- 
perience, however, had been of value to me, and we worked 
along in fair order, but most of the time in a drizzling rain. 


It was very dismal. We camped wherever the lengthening 
nights overtook us, and generally on a gravelly bank, for 
the heavy moss on the top of the banks overlooking the river 
is full of water. We ate hurriedly, slept little, and hour 
after hour dragged the tow line over rough places on the 
shore, the boat all the time pulling a dead weight against us. 

Long before we reached the Klondike many boats passed 
us loaded with men who had been to the new diggings and 
were returning for provisions. They shot by us gaily in a 
five-mile current in strange contrast to the men on the tow 
line, who, with blistered feet, were slipping and sprawling 
along the rocks on the bank. 

" Hurry up, boys. It's a great thing! " they shouted 
as they shot past, as if we could hurry any faster against that 

" Five dollars to the pan, boys," shouted another, " but 
take it easy, for there's lots of good claims there," and we 
pulled away on the tow line harder than ever. 

" Hello, Bill, is that you? " came a voice from another 
boat later on, and I recognized a man with whom I had be- 
come acquainted on the trip in, and who had stopped at 
Forty Mile. " It looks good," he shouted. " Yes, I've 
staked. Will sell for one hundred dollars, for there are 
more claims there. Take some grub over the mountains 
and look around a little. I'll be back shortly." 

I made up my mind that it was no wild goose chase. I 
could take that man's word, for he was an old miner, and 
not easily deceived. " It must be a big thing." I said to 
my companions, and they pulled and poled with renewed 
energy. How exasperating a five-mile current can be 
when it is against one, and there is gold at the other end! 
Never mind the blisters on the feet and the sore hands! 


Never 111 hid stopping to cat! AVe immcbed crackers and 
kept on pulling and poling. 

On the third evening we reached the little native village 
at the month of the Klondike. When Joe and I had gone 
past there in the early snmmer there had been but two white 
men in the village. Now they were camped all about the 
banks. We were too tired and footsore to attempt to go 
over the mountains that night, so we put up the tent and 
dragged our boat up on the beach. Some of the men who 
were camped there had been over the trail, and had come 
down for more provisions which they had left in caches, or 
in the native huts, while some were bound down the river to 
Forty Mile, like those we had passed on the way. Others 
had just arrived and, like ourselves, were waiting to go 
over the trail. We had a bite, a little hot coffee, and then 
a pipe, then sat and listened to the stories of those who had 
been in. These stories, however, did not agree. Some said 
they were not coming back, that the Klondike couldn't 
" hold a candle " to Forty Mile Creek, others spoke of big 
strikes, but we were shown little gold. They had just 
staked out their claims and were going back for supplies. 

All night the boats kept arriving and pulling up on the 
gravelly beach. They came from Sixty Mile, Stewart 
River — from everywhere in this part of the Yukon valley, 
and when we wondered how they came to hear of it we 
found that they had been sent for by their friends on the 
stream. The natives had been used as messengers. 

Then we were startled by a wild whoop like a Comanche 
yell from the brow of the first rise of the mountain over 
which the trail comes from Bonanza. Then came a volley of 
yells, and a stranger would have thought that a whole band 
of savages were pouring down the hill after us. We looked 


lip through the bushes to see tlie rocks tumbling and rolling 
down with them. The yells increased; and rocks and men 
came down faster and faster till they reached the bottom a 
few yards away. Of course we knew what was up. They 
had just come in from the creek. We were up and shout- 
ing, too. 

" How is it? "' everybody asked as the men came nearer. 

" Ten dollars to the pan, right in the bank of the creek 
on No. 11." 

" Above or below? " 

" Oh, below, of course. Nobody has done any panning 

It is, of course, understood that when a discovery is made 
on a creek that claim is called " Discovery Claim," the next 
above is called '•' ISTo. 1, above," the next one down stream 
" No. 1, below," and so on as far as claims are made either 
up or down. 

The little camp of scattered tents was at once alive with 
eager men. The returning miners were seized and button- 
holed, to use a polite expression which is sometimes out of 
place in Alaska for want of buttons. More wood was 
thrown on the fire, the coffee-pot was put where it would boil 
quickly, and the frying pan was soon doing its duty, while 
the visitors squatted around and were pumped for informa- 

We were told that three men on Bonanza Creek worked 
out seventy-five dollars in four hours, and that a twelve- 
dollar nugget had been found. Nothing had yet been done 
except to pan, though two men with two lengths of sluice 
boxes had taken out four thousand dollars. The gold is 
coarse. That was enough to set the miners wild. 

It was evident, from the ferocity witli which the men 


attacked the solid food, and poured down tlic Loiling-liot 
black coffee, that the trip to the creek was not exactly a 
picnic, thongh they say it is " fair." We knew enough to 
know that in Alaska that word applies to any place where a 
man can go without breaking his neck. 

In a little while I saw a few men slipping away from the 
small crowd clustered about the fire, and in a few minutes 
the sound of stones and rocks rolling down the mountain 
side was heard again. But there were no yells. iSTo one 
was returning. Here and there a man had slipped away 
and strapped on his pack, and was climbing upward, cling- 
ing to the small bushes, working slowly, but going on per- 
sistently. They could not wait a moment after hearing the 
stories of those wonderful pans. 

I kneW' we were too tired and footsore to attempt to 
make the climb till morning. If we had attempted it we 
should probably have had to stop somewhere on the moun- 
tains without water. Still, we regretted that we could not 
push on. My companions showed no signs of being sleepy, 
although I knew they needed rest like myself. Finally w^e 
got into the tent, rolled ourselves in our blankets, and tried 
to sleep, but every once in a wdiile another boat would scrape 
on the gravelly beach, and more men would come up and 
cook a meal, or hurriedly shoulder their packs and scramble 
on up the steep trail. 

"While I lay there, almost ready to drop off and forget 
about the wonderful pans, I heard a noise in the tent. Some 
one was moving about. But I recognized the sound. I 
have already related a few facts concerning the Alaskan 
dog, and there is no mistaking that peculiar, gentle sound of 
a pan being licked by a " huskie." I picked up a hatchet 
and threw it at the dark object, but it did not hit him. 


Nothing' but a rifle ball would liit one of these dogs. The 
hatchet made a big hole in the tent, but time was too 
precious to waste in sewing it up. 

Finally, I fell asleep, only to be awakened by more boats 
grinding on the gravel, more Comanche yells, more men 
clambering up the mountain, more stones rolling down to 
the beach. 



Preparations for a Start — Over the Mountain into the Swamps — A 
Hard Tramp — Cranberries to Quench Thirst — A Mysterious Pup 
— The Klondike Valley from the Summit — Glimpse of the Arctic 
Rockies— "All the Goold in the Worruld"— An Old Story — 
Hurrying On — On Bonanza Creek at Last — Calculating the Dis- 
tance — Blowing a Little — Looking for Henry Ward Beecher — A 
Disgusted Irishman — Too Tired to Keep On — A Look at the 
Gravelly' Bar — I form a Poor Opinion — Ready to Change My 
Mind — Too Tired to Care — Forgetting One's Name — Chilled 
Through — Nuggets Fished Out vrith a Shovel — Washing Out 
the Gold — Objects of Suspicion — Pushing on for a Claim — Indi- 
cations Do Not Count — I Stake My Claim — Starting Back in the 
Rain — Over the Trail Again — Our Turn to Yell. 

BY the time daylight had found its way into the valley 
our breakfast was disposed of, and the dishes set 
away out of the reach of the dogs. We cached, 
most of our provisions, and fixed in small packs what we 
deemed necessary for the next few days. Then we set out 
over the trail, taking our turn at tearing up the little bushes, 
and making the stones rattle down the mountain side. I 
had become accustomed to climbs of this character during 
the summer, and, difficult as it was, I could by this time re- 
gard it as quite the usual thing. IMy companions also had 
good muscles and lungs, and made no complaint. Besides, 



there were those stories about those wonderful pans of gold, 
and there was no time to lose — at least, that was the way 
we all felt about it. 

After going half a mile or so the trail became less pre- 
cipitous, and undulated through a ' patch of wind-swept 
spruce and cottonwood. The ground was covered with 
moss of that large variety which lies all over the Yukon 
valley and hills, while everywhere were clumps of cran- 
berry bushes, the berries being just in their prime. Huckle- 
berry bushes also abounded. In a little while we came 
to a swamp with a wealth of hummocks. The water in 
the trail was over ankle-deep, but there was no use trying 
to walk outside of it, so we splashed along, and soon came 
to comparatively dry ground again. Some of my com- 
panions grew very thirsty and looked about for water, but 
none was to be seen. That in the swamp was not fit to 
drink. On we went, picking a few cranberries by the way 
to relieve thirst, and causing the grouse to flutter from 
among the bushes, for berry time is their feasting season. 

We met a returning party, and were told that we should 
find a spring just before we reached the summit, but we 
forgot our thirst a moment while they told more tales of 
the great strikes of gold on the creek. We pushed on, 
finding no spring; others came down the trail, and some 
overtook us. We saw a down-trail man take an up-trail 
man to one side and evidently whisper some advice. Once 
I heard the word "pup " mentioned. In Yukon parlance 
that means " gulch." Every creek has its pups, and if any 
of them become of considerable importance they may have 
pups also. The natural conclusion was that some of the 
prospectors had struck it rich on one of the pups of the 
Bonanza. Of course, I was then in utter ignorance of the 


nature and locality of that particular pup. The world was 
to learn about it lat^r on. 

AVe finally reached the longed-for spring, and indulged 
in a little rest, for we greatly needed it. People never 
know what work is till they have followed an Indian trail 
in Alaska for half a day. As we hun-ied on again to the 
summit we encountered returning men about every half 
mile, and they told of ricli prospects being found in different 
places along the creek. Some of them thought they existed 
only in spots and on the rim-rock,* otliei*s were sure the creek 
was good from source to mouth. jSTow and then one assured 
us that it was all a fraud, and that the men who claimed to 
have got big pans never got them. These pessimistic pros- 
pectors always looked weary and fagged out, and I knew 
they had had no breakfast, and perhaps had no supper the 
night before, and probably did not sleep much. In the 
first place, doubtless, they had met poor luck in panning the 
surface dirt, and, being wdtliout provisions, they had 
naturally taken a very gloomy view of the whole subject. 

On the summit we dropped down exhausted and took 
another rest. As we toiled upward the trees had become 
fewer, more scrubby and wind-swept, and at the top they 
permitted a view of what lay about us. The Klondike 
Valley made a beautiful picture in the- foreground. We 
looked up the valley and could see the windings of the 
silvery thread of water for fifty miles, and where it came 
out of a gateway in the mountains fully one thousand feet 
in depth, with the two sides so exactly alike and so evenly 
inclined that one could hardly help believing this to be an 
engineering feat of the Titans. Beyond this, and one 

* Rim-rock. The efl2:es of the channels worn away in the rocks hy streams 
of former ages. W'ithin these channels the auriferous detritus was accumu- 


Inmdred miles on either side of the round-topped moun- 
tains which form the foothills of the Rockies now, but did 
not once, as they are evidently a more recent formation and 
upheaval, lay the Rockies, peaked and pinnacled and jagged 
beyond description. Every ravine visible could be traced 
by its string-like glacier, and as you followed one upward 
with your eye you could see the side ravines coming in like 
branches of a tree. In some cases these branches are suf- 
ficiently numerous to give the appearance of an outline 
drawing in chalk of a leafless tree. 

I suppose if one should live constantly where such views 
were ever before his eyes, they would become commonplace 
enough. When at home in Vermont I used to hear of 
people who seemed to be overcome by the majesty of the 
White Mountains, and who, sitting on a rock on Mt. Wash- 
ington, would break out with one of David's majestic psalms. 
What would they do in the Arctic Rockies ? They are 
wonderful, wheji one stops to look and to think, l)ut these 
men who were passing up and down over the trail seldom 
did such a thing as that. Big pans of gold ! That is the 
vision before them, and one who lies tired, bruised, and 
footsore at the summit, looking oft' on the wonderful scene, 
cannot hel]i but wish that the Creator had put all the gold 
away down deep in the bowels of the earth, where man would 
never have known of it. Doubtless it was a foolish thought, 
for that yellow metal will w^ork wonders on the mind which 
may be unaffected by a view of these snowy billows of the 
Arctic Rockies. The Indians have been going over such 
trails all their days, and yet they are the dullest, dirtiest, 
most unemotional creatures under the sun. 

But we must move on ! "NTever mind the mountains ! 
Tt was to seek the golden creek and its pups that we were 


eliiiiltiiig over tlicse rocks, and we forced our tired muscles 
iuto action and again struck into the traiL 

After winding along on the summit for about a mile, 
we began the descent, which is gradual for a half mile and 
then becomes steep, then steejier, and, further on, most 
steep. xVgain we were clinging to the bushes and rattling 
doAvn the rocks. As we descended the rain began to fall 
— one of those Alaskan drizzles, in which water takes the 
place of the atmosphere. Nature does nothing by halves 
here. The trail became very wet, soft and slipjDery, and we 
slid and rolled along till someone declared that he must 
rest. All were willing, and we crawled under the limbs 
of the largest spruce we could find and tried to keep out of 
the range of the drops from its branches. 

Presently we heard someone struggling up the trail. 
Soon a rough and jovial fellow of Hibernian mould came 
into view. 

" Are ye there, b'yes, and have ye ary a match ? " 

We had. 

" And wdiich way might ye's be goin' ? " he asked, as he 
drew at a pipe of over-moist tobacco. 

"\Ve pointed down the mountain. 

'To Bonanza, is it? Begon-y, ye'r right. I'm after 
thinking all the goold in the woniild is down there, but it's 
a domned rough counthry." 

Oh, yes; he had a claim, but he had not worked it. He 
took one as near to the discovery as he could, set up his 
stakes, and ran for provisions, like most of the others. He 
had no idea what there was in the dirt he had staked off, 
and he would not have for Aveeks, even if he worked, but — 
" all the gold in the world was there." I had heard of such 
places before. He told us to hurry, as there w^ere many 


ahead of us, and then he puffed along up the trail, and we 
straightened up and slid and tumbled along down. It did 
not matter if the rocks were a little hard and sharp when 
a slip was made and one of us came down with undue haste. 
We were going to a place where there was all the gold in the 
the world. An old story. 

Finally we reached the bottom, our necks still unbroken. 
^Ye were not at Bonanza yet. It was only one of her pups 
which crossed the trail, something as yet of no consequence. 
We brewed a little tea and ate some bread, that is, we called 
it bread. " Anything goes," as the gold hunters say, in 

Soon we pushed on towards the creek, the trail being 
ankle-deep, and more, with slush and mud. It was one of 
those tundra bottoms, which at a distance have such a fine 
agricultural aspect, a tract of " niggerheads," and to walk 
across such a place is one of the most fatiguing exercises 
a man can take. Finally, after a mile or so of it, we arrived 
at Bonanza Creek. It looked very little like a gold-bearing 
stream. A little washed gravel could be seen, but few 
glimpses of quartz w^ere to be had, and there was nothing 
at all that an old miner would call an indication. It was 
no wonder that prospectors had waded and tumbled over 
these places and left them in disgust to the Indian hunters 
and fishermen. We said to ourselves that if anyone had 
got ten dollars to the pan out of this stuff, there ought to be 
a million tons of gold within twenty miles of such a place. 

We got out of the trail — if there was one — and had 
to wade the creek and walk the banks; then wade again, 
and so on very slowly, watching the location notices. At 
last we found one, l^o. 64, which told us the disiancc to 
Discovery Claim, for ten and a half claims make a mile. 


'1 hat iiic-aiis about six miles, on paper, but several times 
that Oil foot. 

We plodded on, climbed over rocks, slid down rocks, 
tumbled up against rocks, and met two men. 

" Ho^v far is it staked ? " I asked, in a weary and dis- 
gusted way. 

" -Why, my number is 45 ; several men ahead of you; just 
stop at Discovery and look in the sluice box; two Siwashes 
packing dirt in buckets; George shoveling tailings." 

George Cormack, as I have said, was the discoverer of 
gold on Bonanza Creek. AVe thought we would stop and 
look in the boxes, if we ever got there. 

The men passed on, and we toiled ahead over a long 
tundra bottom. A man ought to find " all the gold in the 
world " to compensate him for such a tramp. The moun- 
tain trail was a positive delight to this. 

'' Say, let's blow a little," exclaime.d one of our com- 

Certainly I was willing to " blow " a whole lot — in- 

A venerable Irishman, apparently a tenderfoot, came 
plodding along, falling over hummocks and sinking knee- 
deep in the mud beneath the weight of a heavy pack. Alto- 
gether he presented a most discouraged, and disconsolate ap- 

" 'Av ye's seen onything of thot man Beecher ? " he 
asked, as he came up. 

" What Beecher ? " 

" Hinry Wa-r-r-d Beecher." 

" Xo. AVhat do you want of him ? " 

" I'd loike to shpake wid 'im wan minnit. They do be 
tellin' me he wunst said there was no hell," and he dropj>ed 


his heavy pack and wiped the dripping perspiration from his 
liushed face. 

" Is it gold ye's do be afther here ? " he then ateked. 

" Yes," I replied, with as little enthnsiasni as possible. 

" All the saints help ye! " and he shouldered his pack 
again with a sigh and groan. 

The last number noticed was somewhere in the twenties; 
two miles and more from George's. One of the men said 
he could go no further that night. I looked at him and 
thought so too. lie insisted that we should go on and leave 
him, but right down in my heart 1 felt like doing nothing 
of the kind. I was tired enough myself. He looked 
thoroughly exhausted, and I doubted if he would have had 
the strength to make a fire if we left him. It was almost 

I could have crawled under a rock, under anything, and 
gone to sleep at once, but his condition required a warm 
fire and a hot drink. So we got wood, not particularly dry, 
made a roaring fire on a sandy spot, and brewed a pot of 
tea. Then we shoved our feet to the fire and meditated. 

I thought after a while that I was rested a little, but 
when I tried to get up I could hardly stand. I wanted to 
take a look at a gravelly bar a few yards aw^ay before it 
l)ecame too dark, so I hobbled down to it, and found nothing 
but comminuted micaceous schist, with some glassy quartz, 
such as is always associated with these stratified schists in 
sheets and intervening layers. The mica was muscovite. 
and T thought the whole arrangement must belong to the 
Silurian age; that is, I thought so when T was too tired to 
think clearly about anything. I might change my mind 
when I could see the rocks adjoining these schists. But 
it was a matter of indifference to me whether I changed my 


iiiiiid or not. If I did, all I felt like asking was that I could 
do it lying down. I began to believe that I wouldn't stand 
up for anything — not even for my native land. What a 
place for gold ! 

When I started out, I regretted that Joe was not with 
me to share in the fortunes of the great strike, but it would 
have taken many days to reach him and to return. Besides, 
I knew that as soon as these stories reached Circle City there 
would be another rush. My best lay was to push in and get 
a claim, and let Joe keep on working his. But now I was 
glad Joe was on Birch Creek. Any one ^^'ho had seen the 
diggings on Fort}^ ]\[ile, and on the tributaries of Birch 
Creek, would think all these fellow^s running up this Klon- 
dike waste had been driven out of their wits by the mos- 
quitoes. I could dig a hole two feet deep in this stuff wdth 
my hands, and the quicksand would run right in and fill it 
i;p. AVho w^ould think that such loose stuff was full of 
gold? I thought to myself that I Avould not wash a pan of 
it if the owner would give it to me; but I was ignorant as to 
who the owner was, and too tired to care. I hobbled back 
to the fire and thought some more. AVe were all thinking 
or trying not to think. Xo one said a word. 

I spoke to one of them twice before he answere-d. He 
remarked that he guessed he had forgotten his own name. I 
was not surprised. Pie was too tired to remember such a 
trifle. One by one they rolled themselves up to sleep 
almost anywhere. I looked around for a soft spot, threw 
my blankets down, and myself upon them. As I dozed off 
the words of the Irishman we had met on the mountain, 
" All the goold in the worruld is there," ran through my 
brain and gradually faded into indistinctness as sleep over- 
came me. 


"VVe awoke just as the daylight was beginning to work 
its way into the valley, and found that we were chilled 
through. A white frost spread over everything, but after 
a cup of hot tea and a little bread we felt better. Sleep had 
done us some good and we moved on up the trail, making 
very good speed — as speed goes on an Alaskan trail. About 
a mile from George's we met more men, and one of them 
pointed to a spot where he had washed a dollar from a pan 
of the loose stuff he called gravel. It did not appear to 
have a washed pebble in it. But they had washed it out, 
and, like so many others, were rushing back after pro- 

At last we reached Discovery claim, where George was 
at work. We took a look in the sluice boxes, and there was 
certainly plenty of gold there. Some one asked him why 
he was shoveling the tailings up on to the hillside, and he re- 
plied that there was five dollars to the pan wdiere the tailings 
dropped, the tailings, be it understood, being the refuse dirt 
falling at the end of the sluice. He put his hand in one of 
his pockets and drew out three nuggets worth about twenty- 
five dollars. 

*' Fished 'em out of the bottom of the creek with a 
shovel," he said. 

" Jimminy-crickets," observed one of my companions. 

I thought so, too. 

" Well, I'll be hanged," said another newcomer. He 
looked like a fit subject for the operation. Still, we all did, 
for that matter. After one has traveled a little in the 
moose tracks of such a region as this, he cannot step out into 
a civilized community in the same clothes without being an 
object of suspicion. 

We picked up our blankets and what little we had left 


to eat, for we had shared witli those who passed us on the 
trail, with liardly enough to keep them alive, a good deal of 
what we started with. They were in a hurry and had al- 
ready staked out their claims. We walked back a ways to 
cache the remnant, far enough, one would suppose, to be 
out of the reach of the dogs at Discovery claim, but if we 
had stopped to think, we were aware that the dogs would get 
at it, no matter how far we went, unless it was put up high 
enough. Still one always has a natural disposition to avoid 
building a cache right over a dog's nose. This done, we 
started on and found it very much easier without our packs. 
The creek bottom gradually became wider and the hills on 
either side lower, and it was plainly to be seen that the 
greater part of the rush into the region had been along 
there. It was fair to presume, therefore, that the best pay- 
dirt would be found there, but I thought to myself that 
there is no telling in such a field as this. Indications do 
not indicate, in the Klondike. The only thing to do is to 
stake anywhere. 

After a wdiile we met more men, who said that the creek 
was at least staked up above 60. One man infonned us 
that he obtained twenty-five cents to the pan on 60. The 
trail wound along over acres of tundra flats, and I thought 
what a fine moose pasture it was, and expected to see a 
moose, but they had evidently been frightened away by all 
these people rushing in here and digging in the dirt. There 
were plenty of moose tracks. 

As we passed along I noticed a pup which seemed to 
have a more inviting look for a gold-seeker. It certainly 
appeared more like a gold stream, but, of course, like all the 
rest at first, we rushed with the herd. Before we got to the 
fork we met more men and learned that it was staked up 


into the seventies. The trail did not reach above the forks. 
Even the moose had deemed it wise to go somewhere else. 

At last we came to the end of the claims and added ours, 
blazing trees, and putting up our notices. Then we rested 
a little, and looked around. We had no pans, and, in fact, 
did not think of washing out any gold. It was all a chance. 
Gold might be there and it might not. It certainly looked 
little like it. Then we started back and reached our caches 
at dusk in a rainstorm, built a fire, cooked what we thought 
would appease our appetites, rigged up a blanket tent, and 
went to sleep. We had seen the place where there is " all 
the goold in the worruld." 

We felt much better — tolerably well in the morning. 
We were all foot-sore, but a little breakfast — all that we 
had left — with some strong coffee, straightened us up, and 
we were ready for the weary tramp back to the river over 
the trail. As we traveled along we met plenty of gold- 
seekers, all of whom asked about the same questions. 

" Oh, yes," we told them, " it is a big thing." 

We had no gold to show, but we told them about the 
five-dollar tailings, and the nugg'ets fished out with a shovel. 
We noticed a few men on their claims, but they were cut- 
ting logs for houses and were not prospecting. Some were 
working along with big packs, having been over before, and 
Avcre now getting provisions in for the winter. 

Back we climbed over the summit, and I stopped to look 
again at the picture. The sun was shining, the day was 
quite warm, and the ground was dryer than when we went 
over. We could lie on the ground, pick berries, and eat our 
fill. When at last we arrived in sight of the camp on the 
river near the Indian village, we, in our turn, yelled like 
Comanches and jumped and tumbled down the hills with 


the rattling rocks. There was an ever-accumuhiting crowd 
there, and we were quizzed and " pumped." We told wliat 
we knew, which, after all, was very little, and, as when we 
went over, we noticed that here and there a man slipped 
awav, and soon we heard them toiling up the bluff and the 
rocks came rolling back down to the bottom. AVe slept 
soundly that night, and I would not have had energy enough 
to throw a hatchet at a dog if one had tried to eat up the 



Resting a Little — Carrying in Provisions — Promising Strikes of one 
of the Pups — Eldorado — Joining Another Stampede — A New 
Metropolis — Joseph Ladue and His Career — Mining in the Black 
Hills — Attracted to Alaska — Sinking Holes without Success — 
Faith in the Country — Grub-staking Henderson — How Ladue 
Secured the Site for Dawson — His Sawmill — The Mines in 
October — High Price of Lumber — Rapid Growth of Dawson — 
Much Confusion as to Claims — Miners Appointed to Measure — 
Fractional Claims — How They Came About — The Mystery of 
the Rope — Hibernian Bluff — Jim White and His Attempt to 
Secure a Fractional Claim — The Canadian Surveyor Arrives — 
"Three Inch White"— How Claims are Staked — The Fees and 
the Requirements. 

WE took life as easy as circumstances allowed for 
tlie next two or three days; indeed, we made 
ourselves think we were actually deriving some 
pleasure out of it, for, while an ever-increasing number of 
feverish men were landing on the gravel beach and hurry- 
ing on to the new region, and an ever-increasing number 
were returning over the mountain trail, we were in the de- 
lightful position of having staked our claims and of hav- 
ing about a month's provisions at the foot of the trail. We 
could feed the newcomers with interesting stories of what 
we had seen, and hear the latest news from those who were 


206 "any packing is cheap" 

eoinino- out. AVo ate as niiu-li as wo thought we couhl ali'orcl 
to, and nursed our feet a little. The tow on the river and 
the tramp on the trail had been a severe ordeal for them. 
As the time was fast approaching when the Yukon would 
freeze over, and running ice had already increased the dif- 
ficulties of navigation, many participating in the rush de- 
termined to wait for the ice so they could sled their pro- 
visions up the creek. In fact, quite a village of t€nts was 
springing up not far from the mouth of the Klondike. 

But dragging loads over the rough ice of these rapid 
streams is, on the whole, not much of an improvement upon 
packing over a mountain and swamp trail, so at the end of 
four days we strapped on packs three times as heavy as those 
we had first carried, and started out. It makes a great dif- 
ference in carrying a pack on a trail whether a person is in a 
hurry or not. Having our claim, we could afford to pro- 
ceed leisurely and rest when we felt like it, without being 
harrassed by the feeling that we might be too late. We 
even stopped occasionally to break up a rock to see what it 
was made of, and I admired the scenery to my heart's con- 
tent. We chatted Avith those whom we met, and still made 
about as good headway as when we first went over, and we 
camped at the same places. 

Once, while we were resting, a party of Indians carrying 
heavy packs overtook us. Following them came the owner, 
looking very weary under an extremely light burden. He 
said he had hired the Indians to pack his supplies over; 
" and," he added, " I got it done cheap, too." 

" How much a pound? " I inquired. 

" I don't know." 

" Then how do you know it's cheap? " 

" Oh, any packing is cheap over a trail like this." 


When we approached the creek again we learned that 
big strikes liad been made on the "' pnp " that had looked so 
l)roniising to me on onr previons trip, and that I had been 
tempted to ascend and test. It seems that a party which 
had rushed in when the news of the Bonanza was noised 
aronnd had worked np the creek till their provisions had run 
out. They were about to turn back and go to the nearest 
trading post for provisions, when they met and joined an- 
other party having more provisions than they needed. 
While they were cooking their supper near the mouth of 
the pup, one of them suggested that they walk up the bed 
about a mile and wash a pan of the gravel. They did so, 
and were amazed when one of the pans yielded over six dol- 
lars. They at once staked out claims, and, returning, told 
others. This had been the significance of the whispered 
communications we had noticed between the ]iarties we en- 
countered on the trail when we first came over. 

We resolved to go up the creek and see for ourselves. 
So, in the morning we pushed on and camped at its mouth. 
It had been named Whipple Creek, after the discoverer, 
and no longer bore the obscure name of " pup." I 
ascended it, and found some men washing out gold 
where the discovery was made, and I washed out a 
pan myself. It contained about a dollar. The others 
seemed to get about the same. Going on up the creek, 
I found it staked for much more than half its length, 
and I concluded that I w^ould rather hold the claim I had 
than exchange for one here. Bonanza and this new creek 
were in the same district, and no one was entitled to stake 
more than one claim in a district. J^ot long afterward, 
parties buying some claims on the new creek named El- 


The next dav we heard of another rush for creeks in an- 
other section. AVe joined in this, too, and tramped up the 
Bonanza to the forks and thence over the mountain to Gold 
Bottom, where the earlier discoveries of Henderson were 
made, and thence down to Hunker Creek, to which tlie new 
rush was directed. Hunker empties into the Klondike 
about twelve miles from its mouth. By the time we 
reached there the creeks were well staked, and so we went 
over to the Indian River district and prospected along there 
for a day or two without remarkable results. The snow 
began to fly, and we finally made our way back to the 
Yukon to await developments. During this tramp we met 
the same obstacles and had similar experiences to those re- 
counted in the previous chapter. 

In the meantime Ave found that a new metropolis had 
sprung up on a low stretch of ground on the banks of the 
Yukon, just below the mouth of the Klondike. A clever 
man could see that this flat was about the only place avail- 
able for a city in that nigged region, and there was a clever 
man there who saw it. In fact, the honors of the discovery 
of gold in this district must be divided between Joseph 
Ladue, who had fitted out Henderson, of whom we have 
spoken, and Cormack, to wliom Henderson told of his find- 
ings on Gold Bottom Creek. At the veiy time Cormack 
was washing his first pans of gold in Bonanza Creek, 
Ladue, who had not yet heard of Cormack's find, was com- 
ing down the Yukon to locate a town site at the mouth of 
the Klondike. He had heard from Henderson, 

Joseph Ladue is, as his name shows, of French extrac- 
tion, and was born in Plattsburg, X. Y., about forty-four 
years ago. His grandfather was a French Huguenot, who, 
driven from home in the early persecution of bis church, 


settled with many others of that sterling faith in Canada. 
He removed across the line into the United States and 
located at Sclin jler Falls, abont ten miles sontheast of Platts- 
burg, where Joseph Ladiie was born. His mother died when 
he was seven years old, and his father, a stone-mason, mar- 
ried the second time. Young Joseph Ladiie was strong and 
active for his years, and a neighboring family, the head of 
which was James H. Lobdell, took a liking to the lad, who 
had found some things not altogether to his liking at home, 
and who was ready, at the age of nine years, to accept the 
adoption of his neighbor. Joseph was therefore brought 
up under the influence of Mr. Lobdell and his wife — good, 
old-fashioned Methodists — who sent the young man to 
school and gave him work on their farm until he grew to an 
age when he was ready to look out for himself. Upon the 
death of his father in Iowa, in 1874, Joseph decided to go 
"West and look after the small estate of his parent. 

The affairs of his father's estate having been adminis- 
tered, and his attention being at the time attracted to new 
discoveries in the Rockies, he started for the Black Hills 
with a fixed purpose of becoming a miner of gold. He ar- 
rived at Deadwood in 1876 with about one hundred dollars 
in his pocket, full of grit, industry, honesty, and determina- 
tion. The town was enjoying a boom, and the young man 
at once started in for himself by securing little jobs as a con- 
tractor for moving houses and doing other public work. 
Meanwhile he was constantly on the watch for better em- 
ployment, his ambition being to secure a place in a quartz- 
mine. The only place he could find came in about a month 
in the shape of a job as engineer in the mine at four dollars 
per day. The young man had never run a steam-engine, 
and was utterly unfamiliar with mechanics, but his natural 


aptitude stood liim in good stead, and he accepted the ])hice 
and for eigliteen months held it successfnlly. 

In 1878 he was advanced to the position of foreman or 
superintendent of the " night shift " of miners in the 
famous Hidden Treasure mine, which was a most profitable 
producer of gold. His pay was now five dollars per day, 
and he spent all his leisure time in studying the secrets of 
gold-mining. Mr. Ladue so thoroughly familiarized him- 
self with gold-mining that he was fully competent for al- 
most any task that might be oifered him, and he was soon 
offered, and accepted, the place of superintendent of a sixty- 
stamp gold-mill at the wages of ten dollars per day. After 
a year in this employment he decided to strike out to make 
a fortune, and for some years followed the adventurous life 
of a prospector in Arizona and Xew Mexico. He there 
found several promising prospects, and for one of these, in 
ISTew Mexico, which subsequently failed to meet his expecta- 
tions, he, unfortunately for himself, refused an offer of 
twenty-five thousand dollars. 

After two years of this hard, but practical, experience, 
he decided to strike for the newly-discovered mining coun- 
try in the British Northwest Territory adjoining Alaska. 
He made the long and tedious journey to Juneau, and was 
one of the first prospectors in that new country. He then 
passed over into the interior, and it is a sigiiificant fact that 
he was hunting for gold as early as 1882 within six miles 
of the present rich mines of the Klondike. H he found 
little gold then, he acquired a great faith in the richness of 
the country and in its future. He did not fully explore the 
valley of the Klondike, because it was his belief as an ex- 
perienced miner that it was not of the right sort. 

"Wlien Schwatka made his famous voyage on a raft down 


the Yukon in 1883, he ran across Ladue at Charley's Vil- 
lage. With a partner he was prospecting the streams in 
that vicinity, which is about fifty miles above where Circle 
City was founded later. Ladue was familiarly known 
among the Indians as " Joe," and he was in great favor 
among them. 

For fourteen years, with a determination that never 
faltered, and a confidence in his ultimate success that was 
never diminished, Ladue lived in the dreary wilds of the 
Xorthwest. LTp to five or six years ago his headquarters 
were at old Fort Reliance. Every year he added to his capi- 
tal by prospecting and trading, until at last a business open- 
ing presented itself in the purchase of a profitable sawmill 
at Fort Ogilvie, forty-five miles up the Yukon from Fort 

Here the enterprising young man remained for five 
years, earning money and carefully saving it, but his faith 
in the golden resources of Alaska never abated. He met a 
young Xova Sootian prospector named Robert Henderson, 
in 1893. Henderson was about the same age as Ladue, 
and in the solitary wilderness of the frozen IsTorth they es- 
tablished a warm and lasting friendship. For three years 
the thrifty Ladue furnished the necessary implements, tools, 
and provisions of a prospector to Henderson — " grub- 
staked " him, in the mining vernacular. Indications of gold 
were found in many places, but nothing of great value until 
one day Henderson came into Ladue's sawmill camp radiant 
with smiles and carrying a small bottle. He held it up to 
Ladue, filled witli bits of yellow metal. It was the gold he 
liad panned out of Gold Bottom Creek, one of the tributaries 
of tlie Klondike. This was on the twenty-fourth day of 
August, 1896. On his way to Ladue, Henderson had told 


Corniack, a.-^ already related, and Cormack, on tlic twenty- 
sixth, as the story goes, made liis strike on Bonanza Creek. 

Ladue, who knew only of Henderson's find, saw that his 
time had come. His keen eye for business was Avide open 
now. He did not rush into the gold-diggings, for he fore- 
saw the enormous value of the town site at the place where 
he knew that a prosperous city must be located. He sent 
Henderson with four horses and four men back across the 
country eighty miles, to the new gold-fields. He himself 
took a raft loaded with lumber and went down the Yukon 
by the quickest route, landing August 28th, and located the 
town site of Dawson City, on the only site in that rugged 
country that had been left open for it. He built a store and 
hastened to Tort Cudaliy, forty-five miles distant, to make 
the ofiieial entry in the British Land Office. Having 
secured this great prize, he looked over the gold country and 
carefully selected and quickly purchased some of the richest 
claims that could be found. He built a sawmill, which was 
soon running day and night, and earning a little fortune 
every twenty-four hours, in a region where the timber limit 
extended fifteen miles. 

Thus was Dawson started. AVhen the gold strikes were 
made, in the latter part of August, there were not half a 
dozen white people in the Klondike Valley. In a month 
there were a thousand. The lumber mill did a big business, 
and Ladue made thousands of dollars by selling cheap pine 
lumber to the minei"s at one hundred and forty dollars the 
thousand feet. The increasing cold made no difference to 
the crazy miners at Dawson City and in the cabins along 
Eldorado and Bonanza Creeks. By October about six 
hundred claims had been staked out up and down both sides 
of the creeks. The Canadian mining laws made five 


hundred feet along the creek or river bank a single claim, 
and one man was allowed to locate but one claim in each 

Putting up a cabin in Dawson was expensive business. 
Logs, which in that region means poles from four to six 
inches in diameter, sold generally from four dollars to eight 
dollars apiece. A man really needed almost as much money 
as he would to put up a brownstone residence in New York 
in order to secure a building which would have any of the 
comforts of a home. The timber had to be hauled about 
twenty miles, and the so-called hotels, which were soon 
open, were little more than moderate-sized log houses, ad- 
mitting of a few box-stalls. People who arrived late had at 
once to set about finding a way to protect themselves from 
the winter blasts. 

What a hustling there was for lumber to build shanties 
and cabins ! It was growing colder every day, and many 
men paid over two hundred dollars the one thousand feet for 
lumber. Laborers that got a few dollars a day in August 
now were snapped up at fifteen and eighteen dollars a day. 
The native Indians sold fur garments for one hundred and 
fifty dollars each, or for some gewgaws that were more 
precious there than diamonds are here. Lots were soon 
selling in Dawson from two hundred and fifty dollars up 
to ten thousand dollars. The Alaska Commercial Com- 
pany and the Ts'orth American Transportation and Trading 
Company quickly prepared to concentrate their forces and 
supplies there. Moose meat was sixty cents a pound, and 
all canned goods seventy-five cents per can. The com- 
panies adopted a cash system, and carried as large a stock as 
could be brought up. The government consisted of a gold 
commissioner and the chief of the mounted police. T^ew 


enterpriijC'^ t^praiig up every day, and, of course, the saloon 

iS'aturally, in such a rush of business and fever of spec- 
ulation, there existed much confusion. Men who had been 
in a chronic state of drunkenness for weeks had been pitched 
into boats as ballast and taken u^ to stake themselves a 
claim, and claims were staked by men for their friends who 
were not in the country at the time. All this gave rise to 
much contiiction and confusion, there being no one to take 
charge of matters. The land agent not being able to go 
up and attend to the thing, and the Canadian surs^eyor not 
knowing what to do, the miners held a meeting and ap- 
pointed one of themselves to measure off and stake the 
claims, and record the owners' names, for which he got a fee 
of two dollars, it being, of course, understood that each 
claimholder would have to record his claim with the Do- 
minion agent, and pay his fee of fifteen dollars. 

Just how it happened no one seems to know, but it was 
said that the men who were selected to measure the claims, 
somehow slid in a forty, instead of a fifty, foot rope, thus 
making the claims considerably short. Others have an 
idea, w^hich is not entirely without reason, that when the 
claims were first staked off, the excited miners, being- 
anxious to secure all the room possible, would, in their 
measurements, which were sometimes made at night, stretch 
the line a little. The one taking the next claim would be- 
gin where his predecessor left off, and stretch his line more 
or less, according to his sense of morality. 

However it happened there was considerable uncer- 
tainty, and the miners finally petitioned the Dominion land 
surveyor to come ur> to Bonanza Creek at once and settle 
the complications that were arising. One of the late 


arrivals was an Irishman, who, when he found he could 
not secure a claim, went np and down the creek, trying to 
bully the owners into selling, boasting that he had a " pull " 
at Ottawa and threatening to have the claims cut down 
from five hundred to two hundred and fifty feet. He came 
along one day and offered to wager two thousand dollars 
that within a year they would be reduced to two hundred 
and fifty feet. One of the men to whom he had made this 
offer went to the Dominion surveyor and asked about it. 

" Do you gamble ? " asked the surveyor. 

"A little," was the reply. 

Then the surveyor told him that he was never surer 
of two thousand dollars than he would have been if he had 
taken that bet. 

This ran to such an extent that the surveyor put up 
notices to the effect that the length of the claims was regu- 
lated by act of the Parliament of Canada, and that no 
change could be made except by that Parliament, and tell- 
ing the miners to take no notice of t4le threats that had been 

A fellow kno\vn as Jim White located a fraction be- 
tween jSTos. 36 and 37, thinking that by getting in between 
he could force the owners to come to his terms, forgetting 
that the law of this country does not allow any man to take 
more than he has a right to. For three or four days this 
state of things kept the men in an uproar. The surveyor 
was making his survey, and getting towards i^os. 36 and 37; 
when he approached them he delayed operations and wont 
up to Xo. 36, finding there would be no fraction, or, at least, 
an insignificant one of inches. 

He worked along slowly, and in the moaiitiiiic flic owner 
of Xo. 36 became very uneasy, and White also. The 


officer set in a stake down in the hollow iintil he saw how 
much of a fraction there was. It was only a few inches. 
He was purposely very deliberate with this portion of the 
work, and the man who was with him seemed to have quite 
a ditiiculty in fi>;ing the stake. Then the officer went down, 
with the remark that he would do that himself. He had 
made it a rule never to tell anyone Avhether there was a 
fraction until it was marked on the post. 

AVhile he was standing by the post Jim White came up 
to him. He had a long way to go down the creek, he said 
— and lie did not want to wait any longer than w^as neces- 

" Well," said the surveyor, " I can't tell you just yet 
exactly how much of a fraction it will be — but something 
about three inches." 

This is why -Jim came to be known as " Three Inch 

He resurveyed the whole group of claims, and the result 
was a lot of fractional claims, which were open to entry. 
This occurred at about the time some of the later arrivals 
of the early winter were looking for places, and they 
gTabbed these fractional claims on the rich creeks as fast as 
they were declared open. These fractions varied all the 
way from three inches to forty feet, and, were valued accord- 
ingly. Of course, no one could w^ork the narrower ones, 
but they were desirable property to the adjacent o^vners, 
who either bought them outright or formed a partnership 
with their owners. In one case it Avas reported that a frac- 
tional claim of five inches sold for five hundred dollars, after 
the richness of the adjacent claim had been determined. 

In locating a claim on Canadian creeks, a man is sup- 
posed to measure five hundred feet the way the valley lies. 


and then run across from base to base of the foot-hills, or 
from rim-rock to rim-rock. It must be marked by four 
legal posts at the corners. Posts must be at least four inches 
square. One post must be marked " initial post," and on 
that post a written notice must be placed, stating number, 
length, and general direction of claim, the date of notice, 
and name of locator. All placer claims must be recorded 
in the mining recorder's office of the mining division in 
which such claims are situated within three days after loca- 
tion thereof, if within ten miles of the mining recorder's 
office; but one additional day is allowed for each addi- 
tional ten miles. The recorder must be furnished with 
the following particulars in writing: ISTame of claim, 
name of locator, number of free miner's certificate, local- 
ity of claim, length in feet, period for which record is 
required, date of location. Placer claims may be re- 
corded for one or more years on payment of fees — two 
dollars and fifty cents for each year. After the miner 
has located and recorded his claim, he, or some one on his 
behalf, must work it continuously during working hours; 
and, if unworked on working days for a period of seventy- 
two hours, except during sickness or for some other reason- 
able cause, the claim will be considered abandoned and for- 
feited. Leave of absence for one year may, however, be ob- 
tained by any free miner, upon his proving to the gold com- 
missioner an expenditure equal to one thousand dollars in 
cash, labor, or machinery on a claim, without any return of 
gold or other minerals in reasonable quantities. 



Realization of the Richness of the Klondike Claims — Why old Miners 
were Skeptical — How Teuderfeet Suddenly Became Rich — Selling 
Claims at Low Figures — Cutting Logs to Get Provisions — El- 
dorado All Staked — Great Stroke for Some Men — Circle City 
Skeptical — The First Big Pans — Excitement at Circle City — A 
Mad Stampede — Scarcitj' of Dogs — Dogs at $2.50 Per Pound — 
Some Big Strikes — Grumbling Canadians — Bed-Rock on El- 
dorado — Lippy's Bargain — Nothing Like It in the History of the 
World — Pans of Dirt AYorth Five Hundred Dollars — The ]\Iiners 
Simply Staggered — Mrs. Berry Picks up $50 in Nuggets While 
Calling Her Husband to Supper — Scarcity of Labor — Hunting up 
Claims — Gold Everywhere — Opening Up New Territory. 

IT was many weeks before anyone had a proper realiza- 
tion of the richness of the newlv-discovered placers, 
and for a long time all the excitement was confined to 
Bonanza Creek and its tributary, Eldorado. Those who 
staked claims were, of course, met with the same conditions 
imposed upon all placer mining in Alaska. There were 
several feet of frozen muck and gTavel to be worked out 
of the way by the slow process of burning before anyone 
could say what lay at bed-rock, and many old miners who 
had been over the ground laughed at the idea of rich placei-s 
in such a locality, and did not even take the trouble to join 



in the rush, while others who did looked about in a know- 
ing way and departed without staking any claims. 

Stampedes had occurred so often, and had so generally 
proved unprofitable, that the old miners had become weary 
of them. They had, in their more tenderfooted days, 
rushed from Forty Mile to Sixty Mile, to Beaver Creek, to 
Birch Creek, and a lot of other creeks, in which the Yukon 
Valley abounds. The fact w^as that there was some gold 
almost everywhere, and when anyone stumbled on a spot 
containing a particularly rich deposit near the surface, there 
was the natural temptation to believe that the whole creek 
was made up of such material. The miners had become 
so tired of this unsettled state of things, the fatiguing jour- 
neys, and loss of time, that they were disposed to regard with 
discredit any reports of rich finds, and when they heard 
that " Siwash George " had struck gold on the " Thron- 
diuck," it was enough to make the soberest of them laugh. 
Even had Cormack's reputation for truth and veracity been 
first-class they would have doubted the value of his dis- 
coveries on the creeks of a river which they had so often 
prospected without success. They just lay back and 
allowed the tenderfeet to rush in and stake to their heart's 
content up and down this moose pasture, and that is the 
reason why so many old miners were " left," and why so 
many new-comers suddenly became rich. 

But there were, as I have said, a great many miners 
about Forty Mile and adjacent diggings who had be(>n work- 
ing in poor luck and were sick and discouraged of the whole 
country. These constituted the greater part of those who 
first rushed into the Klondike. It was to them a last chance, 
merely, and a mighty poor-looking one at that. They had 
nothing better to do, and so rushed in. 


Yet the way they sold their claims in the first weeks 
succeeding the stampede is evidence of their lack of faith in 
them. The}' had no money, or very little. Two-thirds of 
all the claims could have been bought in September by 
those who would have provided " grub " for the claimants 
for the winter. As some of the poorer ones were unable 
to raise on their claims sufficient provisions to enable them 
to go to work, they sold out cheap to anyone who came 
along with a little dust. Claims which were afterwards 
worth thousands could have been picked up by the dozen in 
September and October for a hundred or two dollars. Many 
were sold, and old miners who had clambered over the trail 
and staked considered themselves exceedingly fortunate in 
receiving that small amount, and congratulated themselves 
that by their rush they had at least made enough to pro^dde 
themselves with a small supply of winter provisions. They 
knew that to hold their claims, build a cabin, and convey 
their tools and supplies over the rough trails to the new 
creeks would cost them several hundred dollars, and that 
the claims must yield something over ten dollars a day to 
pay at all for working them. They had not a particle of 
belief that the creeks would yield such a return. They 
looked with pitving eyes on the tenderfeet who were greed- 
ily acquiring claims in the new district,' and were confident 
that in the coui^se of the winter they w^ould discover the 
difficulties of working placers in Alaska, and in the spring 
would somehow work their way out into other districts with 
no money and little to eat, sadder and wiser men. 

Only a few men remained on the creek after staking. 
Most of them came back to Dawson, where affairs were 
already becoming lively, and either sold out or wont to work 
for what thev could get. Even the discoverer, Siwash 


George, had been compelled to cut logs for the new mill 
before he could get a few pounds of provisions to enable 
him to begin work on liis claim. The fishing having totally 
failed him, he got together as many provisions as he could, 
and in the first part of September, with his wife, his Indian 
brother-in-law, and another Indian, he set out for his dig- 
gings. He was short of appliances, and managed to put to- 
gether only three lengths of sluice-boxes, a very defective 
apparatus, to wash what gravel he could before the ground 
froze up completely. The gravel itself he had to carry in 
a box on his back for a hundred feet. Notwithstanding all 
this, it was soon reported that he had washed out one 
thousand four hundred dollars by the first of October, and 
it was known that he had as yet come nowhere near bed- 

Up to this time the rush had not been so great as to take 
up all the available claims on the creek, but the news was 
reaching both down and up the river, and boat loads of men 
continued to arrive. Once landed they made a bee-line 
over the mountain. One of the greatest rushes was soon 
after T returned from the creek, and soon after the discovery 
of Eldorado. The little steamer Ellis landed with about 
one hundred and fifty excited men, who poured over the 
trail. Eldorado was staked in a jiffy, and many of these 
turned out to be the lucky ones. They set about making 
preparations for the winter, such as building cabins and 
getting ready to sink holes on their claims. The pans 
averaged about three dollars, with prospect of improvement. 

What a stroke this was for some of the men may be 
seen from a single instance. One of the men on the boat 
had come from a little village in Oayuga County, ISTew 
York. He was a cash boy in a Buifalo dry goods house 


ten ycai-s ago, and went "West as a tramp, riding on freight 
cars, lie learned something abont mining in tlie gokl dis- 
trict of California, and more in a spirit of recklessness and 
adventure than anything else, he joined the Yukon mining 
rush in 1894. He had a temble experience with cold and 
hunger for two yeai-s, and suffered more in that time than 
many men do in a lifetime of hardships. He was too poor 
to go back to the United States, and so he stayed on the 
Yukon. He tried gold mining in fifty different spots, and 
lived on half raw" salmon for days at a time. He said he 
was about to commit suicide in September, when he realized 
that another long and dreadful winter was beginning. A 
friend told him to go up to Klondike and make one more 
trial anyhow, for there were iiimors at Fort Yukon, where 
he was at the time, that the diggings were good on the Klon- 
dike. He sold his rifle for passage on the last boat on the 
river before navigation closed. In two weeks he had made 
his claim to five hundred feet along Bonanza Creek and was 
working in the cold and ice to get out the golden nuggets. 
When, the following spring, he went back to the United 
States, he had with him about thirty-five thousand dollars, 
and he had worked but thirty feet of his claim. 

Although news of the finding of gold on the Klondike 
and of the rush there had made its way down to Circle City, 
it at first created little attention. A few miners who were 
in straits came up on the boat, but the majority remained, 
and Circle City began the winter as lively a town as ever. 
On November 23d a man by the name of Rhodes, located at 
jSTo. 21, above the Discovery, on Bonanza, obtained as 
high as sisfty-five dollars and thirty cents to the pan. 
This was the first large pan of any importance, and Dawson 
was thrown into a blaze of excitement. The news spread 


up and down the river like wild-fire, and more men hastened 
in. Some of the old miners who had gone away without 
staking began to come back. In a little time the news 
reached Circle City, but nobody would believe it. Yet 
this claim on Bonanza was the one which really proved the 
value of the district. The owner was in the habit of clean- 
ing up a few tubfuls of dirt every night in his cabin and 
getting en'ough to pay his workmen at the rate of one dollar 
and fifty cents an hour. In that way he discovered the 
richness of the dirt. Melting water enough to pan out gold 
under cover was a slow process, but he found that the soil 
paid him to do it. Others began to adopt similar methods. 

Claim JSTo. 5, Eldorado, next produced a pan of fifty- 
seven dollars. This was succeeded by one of upward 
of eighty dollars. Then came one of one hundred and 
twelve dollars. Soon after, claim No. 16 showed up 
a pan of two hundred and twelve dollars, and this it was 
that caused the intense excitement in that country. The 
news went down to Circle City early in December, and it 
at once emptied itself and came up to Dawson. The scenes 
of the Forty Mile rush were repeated. The miners came 
up any way they could, at all hours of the day and night, 
with provisions and empty-handed. 

It was a great day in Circle City, so they said, when 
the news of the Klondike richness came with such force and 
authenticity that even the skeptical old miners began to 
believe it and quietly made their plans to go up the river. It 
Avas carried down by J. M. Wilson, of the Alaska Commer- 
cial Company, and Thomas O'Brian, a trader, and they 
also had with them some of the Klondike gold. When it 
was seen that a few were starting, of course, nothing more 
was needed. It at once grew into a stampede. The price 


of (logs jumped almost out of sight. In a few days tliey 
were so valuable that they began to be sold by the pound, 
first at one dollar and fifty cents a pound, and then as high 
as two dollars and fifty cents. One man told me that he 
saw one dog sold for twenty ounces of gold dust, and, as in 
trade an ounce is worth seventeen dollars, the dog sold for 
thi"ee hundred and forty dollars. The purchaser was de- 
termined to go, and he had the money. He was bound to 
have dogs no matter what they cost. It was a melancholy 
time for the Circle City saloon-keepers, who saw the signs 
of prosperity vanish, but many of them joined in the rush 
for the new diggings. It was a melancholy time, also, for 
those who had failed to go up when the river was open, and 
now had not the means to buy the fancy-priced dogs, for they 
were too wise to think of setting out without at least four 
months' provisions, and it required dogs to drag that quan- 
tity over the rough ice of the Yukon in the face of the biting- 
blasts of the dead of winter. Yet it was the greatest ex- 
odus that was ever known on the Yukon. As many as four 
hundred men and women worked their way up, and none 
of them lost their lives, though several had their faces and 
toes frozen. 

Dawson fairly leaped into importance. By the time 
the Circle City contingent arrived greater discoveries had 
been made, and the value of the diggings surpassed all the 
dreams of the most sanguine. But locations on the Bonanza 
and Eldorado had been staked weeks before. A good many 
Canadians and othere who, at Circle City, had out-Ameri- 
caned the natural, native-born Americans in their protesta- 
tions and professions of Americanism, came up to Dawson, 
which is in Canadian territory, in this rush with certain ex- 
pectations in realizing something in the new finds by reason 


of their nationality, and made lond professions of loyalty, 
cnrsed their hiek, and declared it strange indeed that a Cana- 
dian or a Briton conld not get a foot of gronnd in his own 

In December bed-rock was reached on Ko. 14, El- 
dorado, and dirt of surpassing richness was found. Other 
holes began to go down in a hurry — that is, as fast as the 
slow process of burning them out would admit. Pans were 
taken out occasionally and tested, reaching from five to a 
hundred dollars, and yet the workers could scarcely believe 
it. They had an idea that they must have struck an un- 
usually fine piece of dirt. In a hole eighteen feet deep, 
on Eldorado Creek, two men struck a pay-streak that went 
five dollars to the pan on the average of the testing they gave 
it, and, without knowing it, they went on shoveling out 
into the dump dirt which was rich in gold. 

Many of those going in early, of course, had endeavored 
to secure claims on Bonanza, but they could not be had, so 
they rushed up the Eldorado. When Professor Lippy, one 
of the fortunate ones, arrived there, this creek was staked 
up to ISTo. 36, and he took that. But a man who had staked 
No. 16 wished to go further up the stream, and they ex- 
changed. When Lippy first struck the rich pay-dirt on his 
claim, the man he had traded with was " joshed " by the 
boys without mercy. He looked rather sober, but he, too, 
could laugh after all, for his claim turned out to be very 

It was difficult for anyone to realize the richness of the 
dirt, and even late in the winter claims were sold for a price 
ridiculously low, considering what was in them. The 
miners were continually expecting to meet a linn't to the 
richness. Einally, pans as n*ch as five hundred were dis- 


covered, and nuggets containing gold worth as higli as two 
linndrcd and thirty-five dollars were bronght to light. 
Claims jumped up enormously in price, but still many sold 
out for a small fraction of the value of dirt that lay in the 
frozen dumps which they had so laboriously dug out of the 
earth. Xothing in the history of the world had ever been 
found to equal, or, in fact, to anywhere near approach the 
yields taken from pans gathered indiscriminately. In an 
early day in California the best claims ever discovered had 
run but thirty-five to forty cents a pan, and these were con- 
sidered marvels of richness. Alder Gulch, in Montana, 
had been thought for years to have contained the richest 
gravel ever dumped into a sluice-box, but even that was in- 
significant when compared with not only one but many of 
the claims on these two tributaries of the Klondike, which 
was worked in a haphazard fashion. 

But what was thought to be a profitable season in those 
days could scarcely equal a few days' work in the new El- 
dorado. Think of a pay-streak nine feet thick, one hundred 
and fifty feet wide, and five hundred feet long, every pan of 
which, so far as could be ascertained by sinking prospect 
holes to bed-rock in various parts of the claim, would contain 
over one dollar in gold, some of them as high as two hundred 
and fifty dollars. Xor was this the exception, but the rule. 
On one of the Bonanza claims a doubting Thomas was asked 
to go down the shaft, pick a pan of dirt at random, and then 
test it himself. He did so, and with a pan and small pros- 
pector's pick he dug out a piece of gravel on the very upper 
edge of the pay-streak, then another small amount a foot 
lower down, then more was taken still lower down from 
the opposite wall of the shaft, and so on until the pan was 
filled bv the time bed-rock was reached. Ascending to the 


surface, ice was melted until sufficient water was secured to 
wash the gravel, and with his own hands the contents were 
panned out. The task was of but few moments' duration, 
and his doubts were entirely removed, as at the bottom of 
the pan was found enough gold to more than cover a ten 
cent piece, and it weighed two dollars and twenty-seven 

When it is remembered that dirt that averages ten cents 
to the pan is considered very rich, Avhat must it be when 
it runs four and five dollars to the pan? On No. 6, El- 
dorado, all the men that could be had were given employ- 
ment during the winter at one dollar and twenty-five cents 
an hour, and some fifteen or twenty prospect holes were 
sunk to bed-rock, and the pay-streak located for a width of 
one hundred and fifty feet, and averaging three feet in 
thickness the full length of the claim. Pay-dirt was en- 
countered immediately under the muck, which in that local- 
ity is about nine feet thick, running from eight to twenty- 
five cents to the pan, but the pay-streak was not considered 
to have been struck until seventy-five cent dirt was reached. 
Pans taken from the bed-rock on this claim simply staggered 
the miners, as they not unfrequently ran as high as one 
hundred and fifty and two hundred dollars. 

The owner of this claim, Clarence Berry, worked his 
claim more extensively than most proprietors, and his ex- 
penses ran as high as one hundred and fifty dollars a day. 
He settled with his employes every evening after working 
hours, using only a pan and some water secured by melting- 
ice to wash out the amount necessary to pay his labor. One 
evening when Mrs. Berry came down from the cabin to call 
her husband to supper, while waiting for him to come up the 
shaft, she picked up over fifty dollars in coarse gold and 


nuggets that were lying loose in the gravel just as it came 
from bed-rock, not five minutes' time being occupied in 
doing it. 

The effect of sucli results as this in the camps along the 
creeks was to make it practically impossible for an owner 
of a claim to secure men to help in working them. 
Some old miners would not work for any price. Sometimes 
it was possible to rope in a newcomer and get him to work 
for a few days for fifteen dollars, and a few old miners 
worked on shares for a time and made good money, but 
they soon dropped this to hunt up claims of their own. It 
is impossible to work these Yukon placers successfully 
without help. 

The result was, that while many of the claim-owners 
were lying idle waiting for someone to work their ground, 
the men who were competent to do it, because they under- 
stood the process and had the necessary provisions, were 
prospecting among the creeks to see what they could find. 
In the end, perhaps, nothing was lost by it, for it served to 
open up a much larger district than anyone had supposed 
possible, and other creeks came forward to share the honors 
with Bonanza and Eldorado. 



Dreariness of Camp Life — Preparations for Winter — Cut Off from 
the World — Even Labels Make Interesting Reading Matter — The 
Only Library in the Camp — A Few Old Newspapers — Nuggets 
for the Benefactor — Joe Arrives from Circle City — Gold, Gold 
the one Topic of Interest — Forgetting the Day of the Month — 
Domestic Duties — How We Kept House — Things That Must Not 
Be Neglected — A Remedy that Kills or Cures — My Bread and 
Biscuit — A New Recipe — Exorbitant Prices for Necessaries of 
Life — Some of the Other Expenses — A Trip to Dawson — A Bit 
of Recreation — Christmas in Camp — Story of a Christmas at Fort 
Cudahy — No Turkey or Plum Pudding — A Klondike Christmas 
— Presents for the Half-Breeds — How Toys were Obtained — A 
Scene of Merriment — A Yukon Santa Claus — First Christmas 
Party on the Klondike. 

THERE is but one thing more dreary than camp life 
and work in the gold-bearing placers of the regions 
of the Arctic, and that is camp life and work in the 
same regions when the placers bear no gold. There is less 
difference than one might suppose. It is undoubtedly a 
great relief to feel all the time that, as a result of hard 
drudgery, rich dirt is being heaped up, and that in the 
spring, after the long winter night is over, shining gold 
dust and nuggets will buy some consolation in a milder 
region where life is worth living. If there were no use for 
gold except to spend it in Alaska, none of it would be dug 



there. It is a splendid ooimtry to leave whether one has 
gold dust or not. 

When the middle of October came we were nearly cut 
off from the rest of the world. Of course we heard from 
Circle City and Forty Mile occasionally, through those who 
came into the Klondike during the winter. Immediately 
after the discovery and my short stay at the mouth of the 
creek, I had taken an opportunity to send word to Joe, ad- 
vising him to come up, as I thought the prospects looked 
promising, and meanwhile I set to w^ork to construct a place 
in which w^e could make life endurable for the winter on my 
claim. It was nothing more than a liut backed up into a 
crevice in the side hill, but I had neither the time nor 
the means to pur together anything more substantial. 
By a liberal use of moss, which is the cheapest article in 
Alaskan regions, I flattered myself that I was at least pro- 
viding for myself a warm place, even though the logs were 
green and the ground of the cabin frozen. 

As the nights lengthened, loneliness settled down like a 
pall over the desolate gulch. The snow fell nearly every 
day, mantling the great frowning hills. It was a scene of 
solitude, and a time of deep silence broken only by the wail- 
ing of the wind through the little spruce trees scattered 
about on the hillsides. Miners, muffled up in their thick 
winter clothing, passed up and down, and I had some neigh- 
bors on the creek^ but there was little time for sociability. 
liearly every one was busy working to bed-rock, setting 
their cabins to rights, or getting their provisions up. When 
the few rich strikes had been made, all who could redoubled 
their efforts at their own shafts. When digging for gold 
"with a feverish rusli and attending to household duties be- 
sides, there is little time for sociability, and we were too busy 

z < 


to think of the outside world. It would have done us little 
good if we had, for there were no mails that we knew of. 
According to the established regulations, mails were sup- 
posed to be brought in from Juneau every six weeks, but 
time-tables are of uo value in these regions any more than 
they are for the Yukon boats. iSTo one wrote letters, and 
there was hardly a bit of reading matter in the whole camp 
except the labels on some of the boxes in which provisions 
came. If one wishes to realize how interesting they can be, 
let him camp in a gulch somewhere in latitude sixty-four, 
M^orth America. A trademark on a pick handle becomes 
fairly eloquent in that solitude. Two fellows named Dick 
Butler and Charley Myers had been prospecting in the coun- 
try for some time, and a friend of theirs in Seattle one day 
had the forethought to wrap up a few newspapers and send 
them in by one of the slow mails. These boys had about 
the only library in the diggings in those old Seattle papers, 
and the miners congregated from all the creeks and read 
them, advertisements and all. One day when a crowd was 
in the cabin Butler said : 

" Boys, I don't min^ your reading the papers, but I 
think you ought to remeiuber the fellow who sent them to 
me. I'm going to put up a little contribution box," and he 
left a bottle near the papers. They did not forget it, and 
dropped in their nugfl|(sts. When in the spring the bottle 
was sent to the Seattle friend it contained nearly four hun- 
dred dollars' worth of the shining nuggets. 

After Joe arrived with a part of the Circle City con- 
tingent, life became a trifle plcasantcr for me, for it was 
easier getting along and we could talk, though he was 
naturally uncommunicative. But wlicn men who never 
liad more than a few hundred dollars all their lives are faced 


A\itli the prospect of making a few hundred every day, they 
are too restless to converse, or to think of letters or reading 
matter. Gold, gold was the one topic of interest in that 
gulch. There were fires to build from the pitch pine, and 
then when the ground had been tha^ved and loosened, the 
alluvial was dug out and put in piles, either in a warm cabin 
or left out to freeze. Then the fires would be started again, 
and more digging would follow. Then on alternate days 
ice was melted, and the water used for panning the gold. 
Sometimes a half ton of gravel would be worked over in a 
day by those anxious to get out the rich metal. It grew 
dark at two o'clock in the afternoon, and lamps and candles 
were lighted. Then there was water to be made by melting 
ice and snow for washing and drinking purposes, besides a 
round of domestic duties in our cabins. 

It A\'as hard work day after day. We never knew when 
Sunday came, and there were constant disputes as to the day 
of the month. We had no time for games or for mel- 
ancholy, for we were all so weary from, hard work when 
night came that sleep at once overcame us. In December 
and January there was scarcely any light, and very little 
work was done. Some miners built their cabins over their 
claims, and by building a hot fire in the cabin kept the 
ground more or less thawed all the time. They would go 
down through the floors of their habitations to dig gold 
from the ground some fifteen feet 'or more below. How 
tired exery one got of canned food and salt meats ! ]\Iany a 
time that winter I would often have gladly given one hun- 
dred dollars in nuggets for a slice of beefsteak. It did seem 
at times as if all the riches we were taking out were not to be 
compared with even the lowliest home in civilization. 

Domestic duties were by no means light for two hungry 


men during that dark winter, when the thermometer reg- 
istered far below zero, honr after hour, and day after day. 
It was easy enough to make beds in Alaskan diggings — 
your sleeping bag can be chucked anywhere except out 
doors — but making a fire or making bread is a different 
matter. Some of the most trivial precautions are neglected 
at one's peril. In their eager pursuit of the golden dirt, too 
many of the tenderfeet that winter neglected to perfonn 
those little duties which were necessary for comfort, and 
which unperformed might lead them to within an inch of 
losing their lives. Every day, as regularly as it came 
around, I shaved splinters from the wood that we had cut, 
to be dried on the Yukon stove for starting the fires the 
next day. Without these dried splinters it was next to im- 
possible to start a fire when everything was covered with 

It was a question whether the gold dust or some of the 
bread made in that camp had the greater specific gravity. 
It is fortunate that in such a climate the digestive organs 
are equal to almost anything. They will seize with avidity 
the coarsest and hardest material, and clamor for more. 
There is no possibility of getting the appetite into a less 
active state, so that food will stay by a little longer. It is 
like a roaring lion seeking what it may devour. A winter 
in the Arctics, devoted to digging dirt out of a frozen hole, 
is the only complete dyspepsia cure I ever saw. It will 
either kill or cure ; indeed, it can do both. 

I became quite an expert in making bread, which in 
Alaska always means baking-powder bread or biscuit. 
Some miners brought in a little yeast and tried to raise 
bread in that way, but it was soon discarded for baking- 
powder. My method was simple. I would take a quart 


of flour, throw in a couple of tablespoonfiils of baking- 
powder and about a half a teaspoonful of salt, and mix till 
quite stiff with water, which had to be previously obtained 
by melting snow or a fragment of a glacier. Then I would 
grease the tin with the best grease that was obtainable, and 
which usually was veiy poor ; but little things like that are 
not worth a passing thought in an Alaskan camp. Having 
a red-hot fire in the little Yukon stove, I would push the tin 
into the oven, and in half an hour take out a loaf of bread 
which, in the ravenous condition of our appetites, would 
make our eyes water. The only difficulty was that a loaf 
would disappear at eveiw meal, so that as long as our supply 
of flour continued abundant I was compelled to bake two or 
three times a day. 

At evening, and that meant whenever we decided to 
quit work, for it was night nearly all the time, I would often 
make a few biscuit, though sometimes we were so tired that 
we would eat something cold and immediately go to sleep. 
My biscuit were concocted by nearly the same formula as 
my bread. Having put a quart of flour, two tablespoon- 
fuls of baking-powder, and a half teaspoonful of salt to- 
gether, I would mix it while dry vdth lard, if I had any, but 
more commonly with bacon fat. This I stirred in with 
water, and rolled out the stiff dough on the smooth side of a 
slab. The rolling pin I had manufactured from a section of 
a spruce pole. Then I would cut the dough into circles 
with the top of a baking-powder tin, and bake about fifteen 

But while we could eat enough of these to make a meal 
in any ordinary climate, they were used only to piece out, as 
it were. They had to be accompanied witb ?ome such staple 
article of diet as flapjacks, or bacon, and beans or oat meal. 


ISTo game came witliin sight during that long winter, and 
we were too busy to look for it till our provisions began to 
run out and it was difficult to obtain any more. 

The prices we had to pay for some of the mere neces- 
saries of life would drive the ordinary housewife into 
nervous prostration. I have spoken of my biscuits and 
bread as a great success, and so they were for the country, 
but they were always hampered by the quality of the flour. 
For this stale commodity we paid sixty dollars for a hundred- 
pound sack. Codfish cost us forty dollars per hundred 
pounds, pork sixty cents a pound, bacon eighty cents. 
Sugar was sold only in twenty-five-pound lots for eighteen 
dollars. There were a few potatoes to be had for sixty-five 
dollars a hundred pounds, and we had very few of them. 
Dried fruits ranged from seventy cents to a dollar a pound. 
ISTow, when you consider that a man could barely keep his 
appetite easy on four pounds of provisions a day, you will 
appreciate the fact that high living is not always indicated 
by the size of the bill. 

Of this monotonous diet of stale and canned stuff two 
men disposed to be economical would require about five 
dollars' worth a day to be even tolerably comfortable. 
Think what a variety of dainties in the way of food they 
could revel in " back in the States." The miners of the 
Yukon, by the way, always refer to the United States as 
" back in the States"; and that word " back " is significant. 
It indicates the feeling which is unconsciously uppermost 
in the hearts of the majority, the purpose to get " back." 
They are only waiting for the gold, and the old fellows avIio 
have been in these regions so long have stayed because they 
failed to find enough gold to make them a comfortable 
fortune over and above what it cost them to winter. And a 


good many have staved because they could not find gold 
enough to enable them to get out. 

The prices which provisions commanded were far from 
being the only expense. Common flannel shirts were 
eagerly bought at sixteen dollars each, while rubber boots, 
that are absolutely necessary for placer mining, sold for 
forty dollars a pair. Moreover, it required something like 
thirty cords of wood for each man to work his claim during 
the season, and, if this were not cut from the claims by the 
men themselves, it had to be hauled from Dawson. On 
many claims the wood \\'as exceedingly scarce; in fact, on 
most of them there was none at all. 

Slabs from the Dawson City sawmill were used for fires 
in most of the mines, and immense numbers were bought at 
fifty cents each, while sawdust brought twenty-five cents a 
sack. All buying was done with gold. AYe became as 
used to handling gold dust at Klondike before the winter 
was over as a miller does to handling meal. 

Occasionally, when the weather made working in the 
mines uncomfortable or impossible, we would get com- 
pletely worn out with the tediousness of life and tramp 
down to Dawson to see what was going on and to get a bit 
of recreation — anything to break the monotony. With 
little to carry, and thoroughly prepared for the weather, 
we could work our way along comfortably, observing what 
others were doing farther down on the creek, and then 
pursue our way down the frozen river. One of these trips 
we took about Christmas time, but no one would have 
known it at Dawson, which was then a city of a few log 
cabins and a host of tents. Hundreds of people were too 
busy keeping themselves warm to celebrate, but a good 
many miners were do^^Ti, and there were many who were 


staying there working in the sawmill, or clerking in the 
stores, or in the various saloons and restaurants and dance 
halls. These institutions were active, but no more so than 
at any time. When the old miners came to town they cele- 
brated anyhow, irrespective of the day of the month or of 
the week. 

Still, Christmas was not entirely forgotten in this region, 
and there is a feature of the life on the Yukon which should 
be mentioned. It is all the more noteworthy because it is 
so rare. The little mission stations along the Yukon make 
slow headway among the natives, but they still afford a 
flickeiing gleam of a higher religious enlightenment. I 
heard of a Christmas celebration down the river which 
afforded a glimpse of the life of those who face the severe 
climate for something besides gold. The story was told by 
the wife of a man connected with the post in that locality. 

The first Christmas she spent in the Yukon district had 
been two years before, when, with her husband, she lived in 
a log house at Fort Cudahy, about fifty miles below the 
mouth of the Klondike.. There was but one other white 
woman there, but it was a comfortable little community, 
and the gold fever had not become epidemic. Two of her 
husband's bachelor friends were invited to spend Christmas 
Day, and she made extensive preparations for a feast that 
Avould be a real Christmas treat. Turkey? They do not 
wander around the Klondike waiting to be shot for Christ- 
mas tables. Mince pie and plum pudding? Not on the 
Yukon. The dinner consisted of a huge haunch of roasted 
bear meat cut from the carcass of an animal that had been 
killed hundreds of miles away, and they were glad enough 
to get even such meat. Bear meat is very much like roast 
pork, and, if tender, is quite a dainty dish when properly 


proparetl, Tlicy sat and tiilked all day with tlie wood 
blocks heaped up on the blazing hearth, and the rough log- 
walls of the house reflecting cheerfully the light from the 
flames that danced and sparkled around the chimney corner. 
Outside it was a vei*y cold, cold world. Christmas weather 
in the Klondike is not comfortable. The w^nd howled 
around the log house and the snow fell, steadily accumulat- 
ing until it made a thick wdiite covering that effectually kept 
any drafts from finding their way in. The thermometer 
outside registered fifty degTees below zero. But inside they 
were as cosy and warm as any eastern home heated by 
modern appliances could be, and in their quiet way, though 
many thousand miles from what they really called home, 
they enjoyed themselves and were happy. The men were 
certainly grateful for some homelike fireside to gather 
around on that Christmas day in the Yukon. 

Her Christmas day of the winter when we were there 
was different from the previous one, and approached some- 
what nearer to the ideal Christmas of the East. They 
actually got up a party at the post, and had a Christmas tree, 
and games, and a real old-fashioned time, indicating that 
the Klondike region had advanced some in civilization. It 
all came about through the efforts of the Kev. James ISTaylor, 
an Episcopal minister who had buried himself in the Klon- 
dike, and had devoted his life to work among the Indians 
and half-breeds there. He had gathered at the post a 
numerous contingent of little half-breed children, who had 
been Christianized and partly civilized and made permanent 
attaches of the station. 

Having taught them the meaning of Christmas, Mr. 
]^aylor decided to show them that it was a time to be joyful 
by giving a party in which Santa Claus w^as to make his 


initial bow to a mixed audience of whites and half-breeds, 
and go through his customary performance of distributing 
toys and other gifts. The weather was all that Santa Claus 
could have desired. 

But where could they get toys in that region, where 
every one was only too thankful to procure sufhcient to eat 
and wood enough to cook it when procured? It happened 
in a strange way, but it is perhaps not so strange when one 
observes how many seemingly useless things gold-seekers 
bring into this country. One man with a trading instinct 
had come into the Klondike region late in the fall, and had 
stuffed into his pack several toys and other nicknacks where 
he ought to have put food. But it came out all right. 
Every white mother in the country around was willing to 
pay its weight in gold for any pitiful looking toy that bore 
the trademark of a city store. The man sold his toys and 
candy at his own prices, and was not such a freak after all. 
In this way Santa Claus was enabled to keep his contract 
with the little folks in the Klondike that year. 

When the day came and the people around drove over 
to the mission where the party was to be given, the ther- 
mometer was at its Klondike lowest, and frost-bites threat- 
ened any' nose that showed itself beyond the fur. Teams 
consisting of half a dozen dogs were rigged up, and women 
and children enveloped in furs to their eyebrows climbed in, 
and off they went over the hills and the frozen river with the 
dogs trotting along at their best pace to the door where Mr. 
!Naylor awaited them. Inside all was merriment and laugh- 
ter. The members of the little half-breed colony, about a 
score of children, were in such a state of gleeful expectation 
that they were ready to stand on their heads at the slightest 
provocation, and they did this at every fresh arrival. They 


were all gotten up in their Sunday best, but some of the 
white children wlio had come in had to waddle about in their 
fur boots. 

Nothing like that Christmas tree was ever seen in the 
Klondike before. There were real dolls gaily attired, and 
with real eyes and noses instead of the featureless baseball 
heads w'ith which the Klondike children had been forced to 
satisfy themselves. There were horses and wagons, dancing- 
figures, and tiny drums, and other contrivances which bring 
joy to the juvenile heart, no matter in w^hat latitude it beats. 
The toys were packed in bags made from mosquito netting, 
which was the only material available. Then Santa Claus 
came down and distributed them. How^ the little eyes of 
the half-breeds stuck out! They thought he w^as the 
genuine article. He was gotten up for Yukon weather in 
a great furry " parka," with the hood turned up around his 
face. In lieu of a genuine white beard he had pow^dered 
his own beard with flour, and no one of the children knew 
who he was, so effectually was he disguised. He distributed 
the toys to the great delight of the little half-breeds, w^ho, 
after a time, could scarcely express their feelings, even by 
standing on their heads. 

After that they went in for a series of old-fashioned 
games, of which blind-man's-buff proved the favorite. The 
mission house was built of rough untrimmed logs, like all 
the best houses, but some attempt had been made to decorate 
the interior, and with light and warmth and the merriment 
of happy children, it needed no very great stretch of the 
imagination to forget the white and frozen earth outside, 
and fancy ourselves at home again. The party broke up 
about midnight — the first genuine Cliristmas party, so far 
as I have heard, in the country of the Klondike. 



The Paradox of Alaskan Weather — A Difference in Humidity — 
Miners' Thermometers — Time to Take Care of One's self — Seventy- 
two Degrees below Zero — Sunset and Sunrise — Dangers on the 
Trail — We Discard the Hut and Take to the Tent — Building 
Fires in the Morning — Hearing One's Breath Strike the Air — An 
Involuntary Bath — Painful Experiences — Eyelids Freeze To- 
gether — Protection against the Bitter Cold — The Parka and Its 
Uses — An Alaskan Opera Cloak — As a Frost Protector — Care of the 
Feet — Snow Shoes — Shortage in the Food Supply — How it Seems 
to be without Salt — Sold for Its Weight in Gold— The Pulling- 
Through Process — Northern Lights as a Compensation for a Win- 
ter in Alaska — Their Brilliancy. 

THE weather in the Alaskan latitudes is, like many 
other features of the country, not readily appreci- 
ated and understood by those who have never been 
there, but have simply read about it. I have suffered more 
from the cold in Colorado than I have in the Klondike; and 
more from the heat on the Yukon than I have in Colorado. 
In Alaska in the winter of 1896 snow did not thaw a particle, 
except a little while during four mild days in February, 
from the time in Xovember when everything froze up till 
the middle of April. JMost of the time during what we 
call the winter months the mercury was far l)elow zero, and 
the lowest that I saw recorded was seventy-two degrees. 



111 a g'ciieral way, this paradox of the weatlier may be 
explained as simply a difference in humidity. In Arizona, 
for example, the hot weather is dry, and the cold weather 
is apt to be damp. In Alaska the hot weather is damp, and 
the cold weatlier dry. When the thermometer registered 
eightj-five degrees one summer day on the Yukon, the air 
was filled with a hot moisture; not a breath wss stirring, 
and the sun shone on with no interruption from clouds for 
twenty-two hours. A person could hardly breathe, and I 
saw men quit work who would not think of doing so were 
the mercury thirty degrees below zero. The cold weather 
of the Klondike does not seem cold in a still day, and yet 
there are many days when a man can step out of his cabin 
and freeze his nose before he can count sixty. One who 
takes thoroughly good care of himself need not suffer seri- 
ously from the cold in Alaska. Otherwise, he is sure to 
suffer. Indeed, he may freeze to death by overlooking a 
few essentials. 

There were not half a dozen regular thermometers in 
the camp that winter, but the specific degree of coldness 
did not worry the old miners, unless their mercury bottles 
froze up. Then they knew it was time to take care of them- 
selves. These mercury bottles are the miners' thennome- 
ters. They have need of quicksilver in separating their 
fine gold, and so they always have it at hand. They take 
a little bottle of it with them when they are traveling, and 
when the mercury freezes they generally, unless in a great 
hurr;\^ or in a tight place with no ]")rovisions, go into camp 
and wait for the weather to moderate, for it indicates a tem- 
perature of at least forty degrees below zero. 

The winter of 1896-97 was said by the old-timers to have 
been a remarkably mild one. It was true that it began so, 


and the average temperature did not fall permanently below 
zero till in November. But it made up for this delay in 
March. The coldest day, according to my observations, 
was on the 15th, when the mercury stood seventy-two de- 
grees below at eight o'clock in the morning. From the 
4th of March till the 23d it was never above fifty degrees 
below. It was quite cold some days in January and there 
were many days below fifty degrees. 

It may be imagined that weather of this character is not 
exactly propitious for gold mining, and very little was done. 
Of course, the man down in the hole could stand it very well, 
shoveling up the embers of a night's burning, but the man 
at a windlass at the top was in a less agreeable position. But 
he was, on the whole, much better off than the man in the 
shaft, who, when work was over, frequently came up hot 
and perspiring, and the cruel blasts chilled him through in 
an instant. 

In the Klondike region in midwinter the sun rises from 
0:30 to 10 A. M., and sets from 2 to 3 P. M., the total 
length of daylight being about four hours, but the sun 
never rises but a few degrees above the horizon, and many 
are the days when it is wholly obscured. The wind blows 
almost constantly, and while the snow seldom falls more 
than three feet on the level, it is always present from early 
October to April. When the reader couples a condition 
like this with the fact that day after day mercury will re- 
main frozen if left outdoors, he may begin to imagine the 
desolation of a life amid the lonely gulches of the north, far 
from all that civilized people are used to. 

The changes of temperature from winter to summer are 
rapid, owing to the great increase in the length of the days. 
By May the sun is rising at about 3 A. M., and setting about 

308 nature's changeful moods 

'J r. M., aud by June it is rising at 1 :30 in tlie morning and 
setting about 10:30 P. M. Either in summer or winter the 
resident of the Yukon must be prepared for the greatest 
changes. When the sun shines the atmosphere is remark- 
ably clear, the scenic effects are magnificent, all nature 
seems to be in holiday attire. But the scene may change 
very quickly; the sky becomes overcast, the winds increase 
in force, rain begins to fall, the evergreens sigh ominously, 
and utter desolation and loneliness prevail. These -treach- 
erous conditions will lure many a brave fellow to death upon 
the lonely trails. The soft autumnal languor of that lonely 
land may change within an hour to the darkness of the 
swirling storm. A\nien Xature thus changes her smiling 
mood for the tempest's frown, the mountain trail becomes 
charged with ten'ible dangers. 

In the winter this danger is increased. A storm may 
break from the clouds, and for many long hours the frigid 
blasts, filled with swirling snow which cuts like a knife, will 
overwhelm the brave traveler unless he is prepared. The 
native Indians will stick a couple of poles in the snow and 
hang their blankets up against the wind, and let the snow 
drift over them. Usually they will come out all right, but 
they are accustomed to the climate and its hardships, and 
no newcomer should be caught in such a predicament. It 
means death nine times out of ten. 

Joe and I managed to endure the winter very comfort- 
ably, though we quickly discarded as a habitation the little 
hut I had constnicted out of gToen logs. We set up the 
tent in front to live in and used the hut as a sort of store 
room for tools and the like. It was too small for comfort, 
and the air became too intolerable for two persons in the 
long nights when venls had to be closed to keep out the 


cold. We moved the stove into the tent and enjoyed life 
much better. Little by little the snow banked around it and 
over it, so that after a time it was quite warm, though, of 
course, much cold air came in at the entrance, no matter how 
well closed. After the fire went out at night it cooled off 
very quickly, and it was as cold as out of doors, but the tent 
kept off the wind. One could hardly get under blankets 
enough to keep warm, but with a pair of blankets and a good 
robe I was more comfortable than those who were using 
sleeping bags. During the summer when I went down the 
Yukon, I traded with some Indians and secured several fine 
lynx skins. I had them made into a robe at Dawson, and the 
whole thing cost me about seventy-five dollars. It was 
eight feet long and seven feet wide, and lined with a heavy 
woolen blanket. Before I had lived through half that 
winter I had made up my mind that I would rather throw 
away my gold mine than that robe. It was worth more 
than twenty blankets for comfort, and some of the miners 
in the camp ofi^ered me twice what I paid for it. 

But in spite of all the precautions we took, and the care 
we exercised in small details, we could not fail to suffer 
some. It was rather cold getting up and building a fire 
when the thermometer Avas fifty degrees or more below 
zero. It was all the more trying because I had slept as 
warm as toast in the robe. Mornings when it was so very 
cold, and no wind was stirring, it was as still as death, and 
I could actually hear my breath strike the air. There was 
a sort of a crackle when the warm lireath met the cold atmos- 
phere, and it was at first painful to draw such cold air into 
the lungs. But, strange to say, I was never troubled with 
a cough, and never felt the slightest touch of a cold until 
late in the season, after the ice had begun to break up. One 


day, wlicii coming up to camp from Dawson, I slipped and 
fell in the river, and neglected to change my clothes. I 
worked several hours after reaching camp, and, after drying 
a little before the fire, rolled up in my blanket and went to 
bed. Instead of killing me, it only gave me a slight cold 
for a week. 

I had a much more painful experience in January, when 
I started out from Dawson to pull a sled load of 'provisions 
up to the camp. When I had gone a few miles I became so 
cold that I could not pull the sled. It was too far to go on, 
so I left the sled there and walked back to Dawson. In that 
way I could keep tolerably warm, for one can keep warm if 
he moves fast enough, but if he stands still he will freeze. 
My eyelids kej)t freezing together, but I had to be very 
careful about pulling off my gloves to thaw them apart. I 
did it as quickly as I could, but several times my hands 
nearly froze before I could get them back into the big mit- 
tens. When I reached Dawson City the thermometers 
registered fifty-eight degrees below. 

One need not fear these uncomfortable experiences if 
he be properly dressed and prepared for them. A common 
winter dress of the mines is a gannent that the native 
Alaskans sell. It is a blouse of heavy skins, with trousers 
of seal. These are fastened close about the body, which 
is enveloped in two or more suits of heavy underclothing. 
For footwear, low boots of tough walriTS hide or rubber boots 
are worn. Mittens and hoods of bear or dog skin are es- 

But the gTeat institution in Alaska, so far as wearing 
apparel is concerned, is the " parka." Whenever the coat 
of arms of the territory come to be designed, there are four 
objects which should be worked in somehow; these are a 


cache, a dog, a mosquito, and a parka. If tliat is not enough 
the artist might put a glacier in the backg-round. The 
parka is of Indian origin. Xo matter what part of the great 
territory the Indians come from, or to what tribe they be- 
long, they wear this garment. It is made like a big shirt, 
coming down to the knees, and with no opening front or 
back. It is just slipped on over the head, and attached to it is 
a hood, trimmed around the face with fur. The Indian par- 
kas are usually made entirely of fur, the fur being inside, and 
the sleeves, especially of the parkas of the lower Yukon In- 
dians, are made so large that if they wish to pull their arms 
inside they can do so with no trouble. They can snuggle 
down in these garments until completely out of sight. 

The Yukon miner and trader has adapted the Indian 
style to his own uses, and the usual parka is made of blue 
denim or overall cloth, with a bit of fur around the opening 
of the hood. When the temperature is fifty or sixty de- 
grees below zero, however, the all-fur parkas are better and 
are common. These garments are useful not only to keep 
out the cold, but to keep the frost off. For when one goes 
out in severe weather the breath congeals in a white mantle 
all over the parka. Going indoors, it of course thaws, and 
if one stays long he throws it off. Going out again, it 
freezes stiff. But it keeps the clothing underneath in good 
condition. It is a sort of " opera cloak." If one leaves 
his tent to go down into the city of an evening, he slips on 
his parka. If working, the under coat may be dispensed 
with ; not so the parka. As a frost protector it is as valiiabh' 
then as it is when going to the theater or the otlier places of 

In severe weather — that is, when the mercury is frozen 
• — the hands, face, and feet must be watched closely. 


Otherwise tlicj will have a tendeuey to freeze before you 
are aware that they are cold. I used to wear a heavy pair of 
woolen stockings which came nj) to my knees, over them a 
pair of fur socks, and then moccasins. One will make a 
track in the snow as big as that of an elephant, but none too 
big to enable one to get along comfortably. Indeed, snow- 
shoes are generally needed, for the snow never packs solid 
except in the trail, and a person will drop clear to the bottom 
of almost the deepest snows if he steps out of the road, 
unless he has on snowshoes. 

There was some difference of opinion in the camp as to 
the advisability of wearing whiskers during an Arctic win- 
ter, and there certainly are two sides to the question. Shav- 
ing oneself is not an easy process when living in a tent, and 
when the air is apt to be chilled by the blasts which find 
their way in. Moreover, whiskers are of some protection 
to the face and throat when facing such blasts outside. 
But, on the other hand, this very protection becomes a 
nuisance of the most exasperating character. I have 
spoken of the way in which the frost congeals upon the 
clothing. But that is not a circumstance to the freaks it 
will play with a heavy beard. It will settle in and through 
it till it becomes a solid mass of ice, and cannot be thrown off 
like a parka when entering a warm room. The only thing 
to do is to sit over the fire and let the glacier on your chin 
melt. In view of this inconvenience, the majority of 
miners keep their whiskers trimmed very short in winter, 
and allow them to grow in the summer as a protection 
against mosquitoes. Then they are a real blessing, and 
many times a man will wish himself as hairy as a baboon. 

Towards the end of winter the food supply in camp and 
at Daw'son ran very low, — a common spring complaint 


in tlie upper Yukon region. Although the trading com- 
panies had concentrated what supplies they could at Daw- 
son, the discovery of gold had taken place so late in the 
summer, and had been followed so quickly by ice, that by 
March there was much difficulty in getting anything. A 
few supplies were brought up from Circle City, and a little 
flour was dragged up from Forty Mile. It was also possible 
to buy a little caribou or bear meat occasionally, but by 
the time the snow began to melt there was practically 
nothing in the camp but beans, and fully two hundred men 
lived on these for several weeks. We nearly starved, or, at 
least, we thought we did. It would not have been much 
of a job to get together a million of dollai's' worth of gold 
dust along the creek, but such a thing as a good square meal 
was not to be had. It is fully as unpleasant to be without 
salt as it is without flour, yet salt was so scarce that it could 
be obtained only in .the most insignificant quantities and at 
the most exorbitant price. It was actually worth its weight 
in gold to some of the miners. A party on the creek ran 
completely out of this article, though they had a fair amount 
of other provisions. They said they really felt as if they 
should die did they not obtain salt somehow. 

Near them was another party having salt, but they re- 
fused to part with any of it. It was insisted that it ought 
to be shared, and that the party having it must sell at a fair 
price. It was 'ascertained that the party owning the salt 
had very little gold dust, and those without salt had an 
abundance. So it was finally arranged that the owners 
of the salt should part with a portion of it, and that it should 
be weighed against the precious dust. Thus was salt act- 
ually sold for its weight in gold. 

When matters reached this pass the provisions Ix^came 


to a certain extent common i)roperty. ]^o one was allowed 
to starve so long as anything was left in the camp. Mean- 
while the cold remained intense, and our appetites knew 
no bonnds. But we never quite reached the starving point. 
That has always been the way on the Yukon. Every year 
the people there come near to starvation, but they pull 
through somehow. This " pulling through " process can- 
not be appreciated by simply reading about it. It must 
be experienced. 

There is one spectacle which compensates one for these 
long, cold winter twilights and contingent hardships; one 
thing which is Avorth the spending of a winter in the Klon- 
dike, or any part of northern Alaska, the nearer the Arctic 
Circle the better. It is not the gold. The more I reflect 
on this life and the hereafter, the more I am in doubt as 
to whether the gold in the frozen placers of Alaska is in 
itself worth going after. But the aurora of Alaska is worth 
seeing, even if you have to live on short rations of bacon 
and beans for three months and find no gold. Some people 
seem to care very little about it, and to old miners the spec- 
tacle undoubtedly becomes commonplace, as it has to the 
natives. Perhaps I was born a little sentimental as to the 
wonders of Xature, and the celestial wondei*s in particular. 

Some clear, still, cold nights, wlien the indications 
favored a brilliant display of northern lights, I have put 
on my snowshoes and climbed back on the hillside " just to 
drink them in." It may be vain to attempt to describe such 
a scene, for one must see it for himself; must stand on one 
of those hills in a country mantled with snow, among the 
trees which bend under their spotless burden, every twig 
a cluster of feathery whiteness. It is night, and yet not 
darkness, only a soft, subduing absence of the sun's rays. 


Over the hills and valleys silence broods in all its cold per- 
fection. Overhead the stars glitter as they do only in these 
still, cold nights in the far north. 

Then one becomes aware of a sort of weird and formless 
presence in the sky, and the stars seem to be dancing on 
silvery billows. A queer electric crackle breaks npon the 
stillness, and in an instant the sky is painted with quivering 
bands of yellow, changing into every color of the rainbow, 
darting with the rapidity of lightning, and changing every 


" Glowing wide and bright, then narrow, 

And then flashing broad and golden, 

Sending long bright crimson fingers 

Far across the cloudless ether. 

Rosy lights grow clear and vivid. 

Pale to tints of faintest blushes, 

Then burst out in glorious shading 

Close beside the soft, blue azure 

Where the sharp, clear edges mingle 

In the softest shades of purple. 
" Pale-green shafts shoot out and quiver 

In the glorious brightness ! 

Flaming pencils touch the hilltops. 

Sending slender rainbow arclies 

Down their glinting shimmering mantles. 

Bushes, trees, and shining grass blades 

Catch the gleam of gold and crimson, 

And throw out swift, starry flashes 

Toward the gay, auroral brightness. 
" In the north a glorious archway 

Casts its glancing rays and shafting, 

And uplifts a glittering halo 

Far across the dark-blue zenith. 

Downward flings its mingled shading — 

Gold and blue, and green and crimson, 

Yellow, tender pink, and purple. 

Shrinking from the icy contact, 

And then sweeping through the cloud patlis." 



Joe and I Have Poor Luck — Trying to Locate the Pay-Streak — Big 
Pans in March and April — Pay-Dirt — How the Value of the Dirt 
is Reckoned — Old Miners Begin to Speculate — Expense of Getting 
Sluice Boxes — Some of the Fortunes — Berry and His Wonderful 
Strike — Very Blue when He Heard of the Klondike — Takes Out 
1130,000 — A Bird in the Hand vs. a Bird in the Bush — A Wiscon- 
sin Schoolmaster's Experience — Worth a Million — Better than 
Trading — Sudden Rise in the Value of Claims — Computing the 
Value of a Bonanza Claim — Wonderful Results — The Aggregate 
Amount of the Spring Work — Some of the Lucky Ones on El- 
dorado Creek — Fortunes on the Bonanza — Lucky Days — " What 
Will I Do With All That Money ? " 

HARDLY more than a score of tlie claims on Bonanza 
and Eldorado creeks were tliorouglily worked dur- 
ing that long winter of 1896-97. As already men- 
tioned, labor was scarce, and the newcomers who had ac- 
quired the rich territory were unable to do much except in 
a small way. Joe and I had poor luck in finding the pay- 
streak, and it was well towards spring before our pans began 
to make any unusual yields. Those who had secured help 
and worked their property more extensively were generally 
unaware of what Avould develop in the spring clean-up, 
though the richness of some of the better known claims was 



fairly well known, for at times the gold fairly stuck out of 
the dirt. The tests that had been made had given an aston- 
ishingly high average, and as bed-rock was reached the re- 
sults were simply staggering. About the middle of March 
two boys, one from Juneau and another from Stuck Valley, 
Wash., began to take out wonderful pans from the bottom 
of their shaft. They were not quite sure of the evidence of 
their own eyes, and invited another man to go down and 
]nck out a pan of dirt in the pay-streak. He did so, and was 
surprised to find two hundred and eighty-two dollars and 
fifty cents in it. In fourteen pans of dirt from the bottom 
of the shaft they took out one thousand five hundred and 
sixty-five dollars. March 2 Otli, Clarence Berry took out over 
three hundred dollars to the pan, James MacLanie over two 
hundred dollars, and Frank Phiscater over one hundred and 
thirty dollars. There were four men Avorking one claim 
which began to yield about one hundred and twenty-five dol- 
lars to the pan. Then we began to hear of big pans from 
the shafts which had reached bed-rock all along the creeks, 
and one-hundred and two-hundred-dollar pans became com- 
mon in April. On April 13th Berry took out a pan of thirty- 
nine ounces — four hundred and ninety-five dollars — and 
in two days took out one thousand two hundred dollars by 
his tests. On the 20th it was reported that some miners 
working a lay on ISTo. 30 Eldorado had found a pan contain- 
ing eight hundred dollars. 

When some of these men reckoned up the value of the 
dirt they had been dumping out, they had bright dreams of 
wealth. The method of computing the value of a dump is 
very simple. The miners' assays consist of panning out a 
number of pans of gravel at stated intervals dnring his shift. 
An average of the whole is easily arrived at: the bucket in 


his shaft contains so many joans, and the wortli of a bucket 
becomes a simple matter of eakndation. Each shift keeps 
tally of the number of buckets thrown upon the dump, and 
the daily average value, and after one, two, or even six 
months' work at drifting an apparently accurate conclusion 
of the amount of gold in sight can be reached. 

Of course, pans varied in such placers, and the lucky 
owners scarcely dared to reckon into the average yielded by 
the large pans which they washed for testing, but the value 
of claims jumped immensely and speculation was rife. Old 
miners who had turned up their noses at the Klondike at 
first, and had afterwards come back and spent the winter in 
looking for more creeks, saw at once the value of the new 
claims and calculated what they could pay for them. They 
offered large sums for some of the claims after seeing the 
tests and inspecting the dumps, and a number of the tender- 
feet, dazed by the sight of such sudden riches thrust in their 
faces, sold out. They thought a bird in hand Avas worth 
two in the bush, but they did not understand so well as the 
old miners what was in the bush. When a mine was 
bought, the season's work, that is, the dumps, went with it, 
and the old miner calculated that he could clean out of the 
sluice boxes, when they could be started, enough to pay 
the large sums they had offered. Of course, they had to run 
in debt heavily for a time, and it was something of a gamble, 
for the dumps might not pan out as well as anticipated, and 
the rate of interest was high — generally five per cent, a 

It was not an easy or inexpensive matter to arrange the 
sluice boxes for the spring work. The sawmill at Dawson 
had been kept busy beyond its capacity in providing for the 
growth of the place, and many cotdd not secure the neces- 


sary lumber for the construction of their sluice boxes with- 
out paying an enormous sum, while if they whip-sawed it on 
claims it would cost about three hundred dollars a thousand, 
figuring in the cost of labor and the logs. But when 
sluicing once began people who had debts quickly paid them 
ofi:', and those who had lived from hand to mouth all their 
lives suddenly had all their old baking-powder cans and old 
jars and kettles in their camp full of gold dust. 

There were plenty of cases bordering on the romantic 
in that lonely valley then. One of the most conspicuous 
was that of Clarence J. Berry. Not very successful as the 
owner of a fruit farm in Fresno, Cal., he determined to try 
his luck on the Yukon. He reached Juneau with only 
sixty dollars in his pocket, but made his way undaunted 
over the Chilkoot Pass, and finally down to Circle City, 
where all the excitement then was. He lived along as best 
he could, and looked about for a location, but without much 
success. In the fall of 1895 he returned to California al- 
most as poor as he had started. But he had faith in the 
richness of the country. In February he married ]\Iiss 
Fthel Bush of Selma, Cal., it being understood that they 
were to make a venture into the Great Northwest to carve 
out their fortunes. They had the usual run of hardships in 
making their way to the Yukon. Stopping at Forty Mile, 
Berry found absolutely nothing to do for a long time, but 
finally secured a chance on a claim and made a little gold, 
but scarcely enough to keep him going. Wlien the news 
of the strike on Bonanza Creek reached Forty Mile, Berry 
was one of the bluest of the blue, and had scarcely enough 
ambition left to go with the rush. But liis wife prevailed 
upon him to go, and he struck it rich within a short time. 
He was soon able to build a comfortabh' home for bis wife at 


Dawson, hut slie remained miieli of the time at the mines, 
where she poked around the dumps, and, during the time she 
was there, picked up about ten thousand dollars' worth of 

In a few months Berry took out one hundred and thirty 
thousand dollars, from which he paid twenty-two thousand 
dollars to miners. He paid the experienced men fifteen 
dollars a day and settled with them every evening by wash- 
ing out a few panfuls of dirt with melted snow. Three 
men, named Flack, Sloan, and Wilkinson, worked a claim 
on Eldorado, and when they had sunk a shaft eighteen feet 
Sloan and AVilkinson sold out their interests for fifty thou- 
sand dollars each, but Flack refused to sell. He preferred 
to take his chances with the bird in the bush. The three 
owners when they came to clean up the dump obtained over 
fifty thousand dollars each out of the dirt thrown out before 
the pay-streak was reached. A miner by the name of Alex. 
]\IacDonald took out ninety-four thousand dollars from a 
forty-foot patch of ground only tw^o feet thick. He em- 
jiloyed four men to do the work and consumed but twenty- 
eight days. His claim was ISTo. 30 Eldorado. 

There was one man wdio a year before had been a coun- 
try schoolteacher in Wisconsin. In the spring of 1896 he 
started on a pleasure trip to Juneau. His funds gave out 
and he was compelled to go to work, but later on he joined 
a party of tenderfeet and started up the Stikine Eiver for 
Lake Teslin. Before the lake was reached eleven of the 
party gave up in disgust, and the schoolmaster and one 
other were left alone with less than a year's provisions. 
They pushed on to the lake, built a raft, and started do^vn 
the river. Along in October they came floating down to 
the mouth of the Klondike, as green a pair as ever found 


their way into the country. They heard about the dis- 
covery, but found all the good claims staked. Finally, they 
secured a chance to work a claim on shares, which gave 
them each one-fourth interest in the claim. They took out 
eighty thousand dollars in thirty days from one claim on El- 
dorado, and twenty-two thousand dollars in twenty days 
from another, and by the time they washed out their dumps 
they were interested in a half dozen other claims of value. 
The schoolmaster calculated that he was worth at least three 
hundred thousand dollars, and that his chances were good 
for a million by the time his interests were worked out. 

Something like a realization of the force and complete- 
ness of the awakening may be had from a simple observa- 
tion of the experience of a Seattle boy who had amved at 
the Klondike too late to stake a claim, but still while the 
majority had little faith in the permanent value of the 
new discovery. He found a fellow who was willing to sell 
his Eldorado claim for eighty-five dollars, and he pur- 
chased it, but was unable to work it. In April, or in less 
than four months after his purchase, not having put a pick 
into the dirt of the claim, he sold it for thirty-one thousand 
dollars in Canadian money, which in dust at seventeen dol- 
lars an ounce would be equivalent to about thirty-five thou- 
sand dollars. There were many similar cases Avhere claims 
were sold in Xovcmber for as many dollars as they were 
valued in thousands in the spring. 

Sometime in the winter a Frencli Canadian, while in- 
toxicated, sold his claim on Eldorado for five hundred dol- 
lars. When ho became sober he regretted exceedingly 
what he had done. Some of his friends told In'm that a 
contract made with a man when intoxicated would not hold, 
and he threatened proceedings to have it declared void. 


The fact was that all the })arties were more or less intoxi- 
cated when the sale was made. It was one of those saloon 
incidents qnite common when the tired and lonesome miners 
meet at Dawson to break the hard monotony of their 
lives. Rather than hazard a lawsuit, the purchaser of the 
claim offered to the French Canadian what was, in effect, 
about one-tenth of the original claim, to surrender all right 
and title, real or imaginary, that he might have. It was 
about the middle of March when he accepted this settle- 
ment, and in April he sold his interest in this small part of 
the claim for fifteen thousand dollars, and went home to 
spend it. 

Frank Dinsmore, a poor prospector, in 1896 took out of 
a claim on Bonanza Creek ninety pounds of gold in a single 
day, netting him twenty-four thousand four hundred and 
eighty dollars. A man working on Alec McDonald's El- 
dorado claim shoveled in twenty thousand dollars in twelve 
hours. McDonald is a great big, raw-boned, rough, good- 
hearted working man. One day he paid over to the Alaska 
Trading and Transportation Company at Dawson one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars in one payment. Among 
the mass of gold was twelve thousand dollars in nuggets in 
a granite bowl. They weighed about forty-five pounds. 
Alice Henderson, a newspaper correspondent, happened to 
be present at the time the payment was made. Alec turned 
to her and said, in an off-hand way: 

" Help yourself to the nuggets. Take some of the 
bigger ones." 

She hesitated, and he said: " Oh, they are nothing to 
me. Take as many as you please. There are lots more." 

She finally took a nugget which represented about two 
hundred dollars in gold. Frank Phiscator was another pros- 


pector from Michigan. In the fall of 1896 he was a pauper 
prospector. In the spring of 1897 he was a millionaire. 

One June day, when the dumps had been pretty well 
washed out, the Canadian surveyor went up to Eldorado 
Creek to gain an idea of the output of the twenty-four 
claims that had been at all worked there. He calculated 
that at the rate of seventeen dollars an ounce it aggregated 
about eight hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars, and 
this was the result of little more than a scratching of the 
pay-streak of the claims. One claim on the creek had been 
sold in April for forty-five thousand dollars, and five thou- 
sand dollars had been paid down. The other provisions of 
the sale were that fifteen thousand dollars should be paid on 
May 15th, or about a month after the sale, the purchaser, if 
failing to make the payment, forfeiting the claim, and the 
balance to be paid by July 1st, failing which the claim 
and all money paid should be forfeited. This was con- 
sidered by some a very hazardous deal. It required im- 
mense faith in the dirt; but the purchaser seemed to know 
his business, and^when the papers were completed he said 
he never felt surer of a homestake in his life, although he 
had been mining for over twenty years. After the pur- 
chase, as sluicing could not yet be done, he set to work 
with two rockers, and made his payment on May 11th, or 
four days before it was due, and the balance was ready about 
the 20th of June. The claim had been sold for an amount 
which was practically equivalent to but two months' work- 
ing of a space about twenty-four feet square, and with a 
rocker at that. 

If Bonanza Creek did not develop such remarkable re- 
sults at first it was still rich past the comprehension of the 
owners. About the middle of April, George Cormack, 


acting for Tagisli Charlie, his associate, sold one-half of 
(Maim Xo. 2 helow for live thonsand dollars, five hundred 
dollars down, and the balance to be paid by July 1, or 
forfeit the mone}' and the claim. On July 1, while pass- 
ing the claim, the Canadian surveyor witnessed the pay- 
ment of the four thousand five hundred dollars by the pur- 
chaser, and when the business was completed he asked him 
how he had succeeded. 

" Oh," he said, " pretty well." 

" Have you any objections to telling me what you have 
done? " 

" Xo," he replied. " I drifted about twenty-four feet 
long by fourteen feet wide, and cleaned up eight thousand 

-' I know the area of your claim," said the surveyor, 
" and assuming that your claim is all equally rich, we will 
see how much you will take out of it." 

Some of these miners were not good at figures, and 
more of them had been too busy and excited taking out the 
gold to drop into mathematical calculations. But it was a 
simple problem. Given the length and width of the claim, 
the product gave the area in square feet. Dividing this by 
the result of multiplying 24 by 14, and multiplying the 
quotient by eight thousand dollars, would give the value of 
the dirt in the whole claim. The surveyor went through 
the process. 

" It's two million four hundred thousand dollars," he 

" Mv God! " said the man, " what will I do with all that 

? " 


" Oh, I wouldn't worry," said the surveyor, " for you 
arc not likely to be troubled to that extent. It is hardly 


possible that your claim will average anything like that in 
richness. But assuming that it will average one-quarter as 
rich, you will still have six hundred thousand dollars. Or, 
assuming that there is a narrow strip in your claim only 
fourteen feet wide which you have just happened to strike 
on, and that it continues through the length of your claim, 
which is two hundred and fifty feet, you will still have 
eighty-three thousand dollars, which is enough to kill you." 




Gold by the Ton — The Unfortunate Ones — Alaska Mining a Lottery 

— Deceptive Placers — Wearj' Men Who Show No Nuggets — Ex- 
perience of an Old Scotchman — Mining for Forty-Two Years — 
A " Homestake " at Last — Poor Luck Still Followed Him — 
Others Less Fortunate — Feeling of the Old Miners When They 
Saw the Tenderfeet Taking Out Gold — A Little too Much — 
Hardships of a Miner — His First Good Luck — Neal Mc Arthur 
and His Narrow Escapes — Scarcely Making a Living — Catching 
at a Straw — Hard Conditions of a Prospector's Life — Troubles 
after Gold is Found — The Massachusetts Man and His " Boy " — 
Threatened by Claim-Jumpers — The Old Man Shot — The Boy 
Handles the Gun and Turns Out to Be a Pretty Girl — A Heroic 
Act — Queer People — An Old Slave from down in Georgia — His 
Lucky Strike. 

IT is impossible to adequately describe the effect upon 
Dawson of these revelations of the rich character of 
the mines which came when the sluices were cleaned 
up in the months of May and June. Gold was brought 
in from the creeks by the ton, and, as one man expressed it, 
was " stacked up by the cord "' with the trading companies 
for safe keeping. ]\[en who had stumbled over the rough 
trail in September, poor and disheartened, disgusted with 
their condition and sick of the country, came down in the 
spring as milliouaires and threw their gold dust about like 
so much grass seed. But it must not be thought be- 



cause so mucli gold dust was in evidence that every one 
was rich. The fortunate ones always become famous, but 
little is heard of those who work as hard and gain but little. 

These Alaskan and Northwest Territory gold fields con- 
stitute as odd a prize drawing proposition as ever was con- 
ceived of. It can be likened to nothing that admits of a 
better comparison than a lottery. Old miners have looked 
along the creeks for years, and their practiced eyes have 
detected colors in many places. Selecting spots, they have 
worked, sometimes half frozen, oftener half starved. The 
season has closed, the water has run, and it has been found, 
time and time again, that expenses have barely been paid. 
Only a little distance away men rushed in, staked oft" any 
part of a creek's bed they could get, and took sacks of gold 
from the most uninviting bit of earth any one ever saw. 
The lucky one did not strike the pocket because of his 
ability as a miner. Chance favored him, that was all. In 
nineteen cases out of twenty the miners had missed it and 
waited another year for a new trial. Finally came the 

The placers are the most deceiving I have ever seen. 
Imagine a man working on good " color " and finding the 
ground worth only a few dollars per day, and then turning 
to a waste of mud and moss with no surface indications and 
unearthing a bonanza! This seems to be the situation all 
over Alaska. The man who goes there to mine does so at 
the expense of health and happiness, and it is with him a 
question of making a fortune quickly, or taking chances 
with death. 

About Dawson were scores of men who could weigh 
their gold by the bucketful and who valued their claims at 
millions. Four hundred valuable diggings were stretched 


along the creeks, and every digging was a fabulous mine of 
gold. Yet there were weary men who had come to Daw- 
son after searching the country throughout, and never a 
nugget could they show for their toil and their long tramp 
over broken ground into a country whose natural disad- 
vantages are exceeded by those of no other place on earth. 

One old miner there was, a Glasgow Scotchman, noted 
for his steady, upright, moral life. He was sixty -four years 

'' How" long have you been mining? " he was asked, one 

" Forty-two years," he replied. 


" Everyw^here in North America wdiere mining has been 

" And you never made a homestake? " 

" I never made more than a living, and very often a 
scant one at that," he replied, somewdiat mournfully. 

The miners of the Yukon speak of a " homestake," 
meaning the accumulation of enough gold to enable them 
to return to '^ God's country," as they call the United 
States, and live the rest of their days comfortably. This 
old Scotchman had been searching through the Y'ukon val- 
ley for ten years and had at last come to look forward to the 
possibility of dying and being buried there. He had 
thought — and it must have been a bitter thought, too — 
that in his last days he might have to be assisted by his 
friends as he had often helped others. 

But he was at last fortunate enough to locate a good 
claim in the Klondike district with another old Scotchman 
who had had a similar experience. They could not afford 
to w^ork it much, but when March came and the prices of 

fortune's tardy favors 331 

mines rose to such fabulous figures, they sokl out for twenty 
thousand dollars — ten thousand dollars each, after over 
forty years of hardships, much of the time cut off from all 
associations, and deprived of home and family life, and the 
pleasures of existence amid civilized surroundings. 

But even this tardy favor from fortune carried with it 
an element of that poor luck which had followed them for so 
many years. Had they waited twenty days longer they 
could have sold their claim for forty thousand dollars just as 
easily as they had sold it for half that sum. Still, they were 
glad to acquire even their little fortune, and they embraced 
the first o]iportunity to leave the country and return to a 
civilized land to end their days. They had at last made 
their homestake. 

Others were far from being as fortunate as that. There 
were men who had been knocking around the mountains 
for years, and who came too late to secure claims, working 
about Dawson for anything they could get, and though they 
make good wages in such a booming place, it was little more 
than enough to keep soul and body together at the prices 
they were compelled to pay for the stalest kind of pro- 

Scores of practiced miners came into the camps that first 
winter who could not even secure a lay on any of the rich 
placers. They were glad to have the opportunity io work 
for some of the lucky tonderfeet who had stumbled into the 
golden valley. Their feelings during that long winter, as, 
exposed to the fierce blasts of Arctic weather, they toiled in 
the frozen shafts or turned tlie crude windlasses, and know 
that the lucky fellow whose claim they were working was 
enabled to pay them by washing out every evening a 
few buckets of the rich earth they were thawing, may be 


imagined. Tlicy had searched, some of them for years, 
along the Yukon for such places as this, and when it was 
found they could get only fifteen dollars a day while a lucky 
tenderfoot was taking out thousands. 

But they did not grumble at fate. None knew so well 
as they that mining is a gamble anyway, and those who had 
had the good fortune to find the prize were entitled to it. It 
was a little too much for their hardened resignation to this 
blind fate, however, when they were asked to work for less 
than fifteen dollars a day in the new placers. To be sure, 
they had often worked in diggings where they had earned 
more than their employers, but when these tenderfeet, who 
needed the experienced men to work their rich properties, 
asked them to labor for less than fifteen dollars in dirt that 
frequently ran over a hundred dollars to the pan, it was a 
little too much. The diificulty was finally adjusted so that 
the experienced miners received the high rate of wages 
while the inexperienced received about ten dollars a day. 

I knew one young man who had been a sailor and had 
roughed it in about every way possible, finally bringing up 
on the Yukon, where, he said, he had the hardest experience 
he had ever met in his life. 

" I've known what it is to go hungry for a month at a 
time," he said, as he was taking the steamboat to go home 
for a visit, having made a little money for the first time 
since he came into the valley. " I know what the chance 
for getting rich in this country is," he continued, " and 
although I have got enough at last to enable me to go home 
for a little visit after all these years, I wouldn't again go 
through what I have endured here for the best mine in the 
Klondike. Two years ago T landed at Forty YFile with my 
partner, and we worked hard and often went terriblv 


luingry. When we heard of the strike on Bonanza, I 
wanted to go, but in the eight months we had been working 
we had taken out not more than thirty dollars of clean 
money. Ill luck seemed to follow us wherever we went. 
Finally we got up to Dawson and were fortunate enough to 
secure a lay on an Eldorado claim. After working a 
wliile my partner became disgusted and left, for none of the 
big strikes had been made then. It was the hardest mining 
we had ever struck. After a time we found some good in- 
dications, and by the end of the season we were able to take 
out enough so that I had six thousand dollars for my share. 
That is the first piece of good luck I have had in my two 
years in Alaska, and it does not begin to pay me for what I 
have suffered." 

Jack McQuesten, who is called the " father of the coun- 
try," has comparatively very little to show for his long life 
and many hardships on the Yukon. He has done fairly 
well as a trader, and by his generosity has helped many of 
the old miners of the country in their desperate straits. 
McQuesten went to Dawson, but not till the choice ground 
had been taken up. His claim panned out so well, how- 
ever, that for the first time in twenty-six years he paid a visit 
to the states, carrying with him about ten thousand dollars. 
ISTeal McArthur was one of the old miners in the country. 
In recounting his experiences to a party of friends, he said: 

" I have been mining for more than thirty years, but 
not until I struck Alaska over nine years ago did I begin to 
know what suffering was. It would be impossible for me 
to tell all I have gone through and the many times that 
death has been near me. I recall one instance that may 
serve to illustrate what the people are to expect if tliey rush 
unprepared into the Yukon country. It was in the fall of 


1881. Winter had eomc on earlier than nsiial, and, in con- 
sequence, only a few boats were able to reach tlie points 
along the river. In the dead of winter our provisions gave 
out, and it seemed as though we must all die. Finally it was 
agreed that we must go to St. Michael, one thousand seven 
hundred miles away, if we hoped to escape with our lives. 
I cannot begin to recount the horrors of that journey. It 
was bitter cold, and to make matters worse we did not have 
the proper clothing. We were weeks in reaching our 
destination, and we were more dead than alive when we 
got there. I have worked all through the diggings of 
Alaska, but I hardly made a living. Some seasons we took 
out next to nothing, and then next year we would strike a 
pocket caiTying enough gold to keep us going for a time. 
Last fall, when the news reached us of the strike on the 
Klondike, all who could packed up their effects and hastened 
to the new fields. It was like a drowning man catching at a 
straw. We were ready to do anything that promised a re- 
turn. I was fortunate enough to locate a good claim and 
came away with enough to last me the rest my days. 

" There are men in this country who are poor, and who 
will remain so. It has not been their ' luck,' as they call it, 
to strike it rich, but I may say that the country offers to 
men of great fortitude, steadiness, and some intelligence an 
opportunity to make more money in a given time tiian they 
could possibly make anywhere else. You have, of course, 
a good deal to contend with; your patience will be sorely 
tried, for the conditions are so unique that they have sur- 
prised many who have gone in hopefully and have left in 
disgust. There are many obstacles and disagreeable con- 
ditions in prospecting." 

Troubles are not certain to cease when gold in rich quan- 


titles is found and all tliat remains is to get it out. In 
Alaska and the Northwest Territory now, as has generally 
been the case in valuable gold regions, there are men who 
are desperate and unscrupulous, and who, under some pre- 
text, may seek to deprive a weak man of his rights. In the 
rush and excitement attending the development of the 
Klondike district such cases were too commonly overlooked, 
even by the justice-loving miners who were too hard at work 
and too busy to mind the troubles of others. There was 
some genuine heroism displayed in defending claims. ^^-^ 

Along in April there came into one of the camp^ it. 
elderly man accompanied by a boy, as we thought, about 
fifteen years old. We thought him one of the nicest boys 
we ever saw. He and his father staked out a claim on one 
of the new streams. The old man said he came from Mas- 
sachusetts. He was a quiet, peaceable man, minded his own 
business and paid no attention to anybody. But a few days 
after he commenced work on his claim it got around that he 
had struck three-dollar dirt. 

Some of the mean characters knocking about the place 
thought they might run the old fellow off his claim. So 
one night two or three of them went to the tent, shoved their 
guns in the faces of the man and his boy, and told them if 
they didn't get off that claim within twenty-four hours they 
would be shot. The old man said nothing to them, so one of 
them owned up afterward, but just lay there, and the boy 
kept quiet, too. 

The old man, whose name was Henry AYilliams, talked 
it over with his boy, and between them they agreed that they 
would stick it out. So they took turns lying awake and 
watching for the claim-jumpers. Three or four nights 
aftorAvards the jumpers came. The boy was asleep and the 

330 A girl's heroism 

old man was on watch. Before the old man knew what had 
happened they had shot him in the shoulder. The boy 
heard the shot, and out he jumped with a gun in each hand, 
dropped two of the fellows, and wounded another. The 
fourth man ran away without firing a shot. Then the boy 
fixed the old man up a little and came down into the town 
and told what had happened. 

The men assembled right away and went out to the old 
man's camp and brought him back to town, fixed him up 
+lie best they could, and found that he was not very badly 
.:.~T After they had found this out and told the boy that 
his father was all right, he dropped to the floor as if he was 
shot. They picked him up and laid him in a bunk. 

And then they found out that he wasn't a boy at all, but 
a girl, and a pretty girl, too. 

As I heard the story, the man had been veiw unfortunate 
in the East, and determined to go to Alaska. His wife was 
dead, and he had only one child, this girl, and did not know 
what to do with her. But she was determined to come with 
him as a boy, and she made her father agree to it. There 
was nothing in Dawson too good for them after that, and 
that girl could have married any unmarried man in town 
had she chosen to, and there was some talk of her doing so. 
There are plenty of opportunities for such romances in the 

And many queer people were to be found. It seemed 
as if nearly every nation of the earth was represented and 
everybody was as good as everybody else. It made no dif- 
ference as to color, or pre^^ious condition. There was one 
old fellow who had once been a slave, and his wool was as 
gray as a sheep's pelt. He had come into the Yukon valley 
with a freighting outfit and had no idea of trying for gold. 


But when he reached the neighborhood of Dawson, old as 
he was, he contracted the fever and staked out a claim. 

" You know that old black fellow down the creek," said 
Joe one day when he had returned from witnessing some of 
the spring sluicing. 

" Yes," I said. " What about him ? " 

" Well, you may believe it or not, but the old rascal has 
cleaned up thirty thousand dollars in gold dust. You ought 
to hear him talk about what he is going to do with it. His 
name, he says, is St. John Atherton, and he comes from 
down in Georgia, ' just a piece out of Atlanta.' The daugh- 
ter of the man who owned him during the war is living there 
yet, he says, on the old plantation, but very poor. The old 
fellow says he is going back to buy that plantation, and then 
he is going to have that woman do nothing but live like a 
lady all the rest of her days. I believe he means just what 
he says. He's a queer old darky, but he seems to have a 
s'ood heart." 



News of the Outside World — When the Ice Goes Out of the River — 
It "Marks Time" — An Unpleasant Sight for a Hungry ]\[an — 
Grub at Last — Happy Incident of a Yukon Honeymoon — Mrs. 
McKay's Story — Death of a Baby — The Little Casket and the 
Grave by Lake Lindeman — Misfortunes of John Matthews — His 
Troubles Over — Impression of the Trail — Strong Men Dismayed 
at the Outlook — Trying to Look Cheerful — Learning of the 
Klondike Discoveries — Taken for a Man — Over the Summit — 
Ravenous Appetites of the Men — Through the Canon and the 
Rapids — A Woman's Experience — Clinging to the Boat in Terror 
— In the Presence of Death — Quick Decisions of Gold-Seekers — 
Many Unfit for Work in Alaska — The Situation Facing the Ten- 
derfoot — AVhere Shall He Find Gold? — "Did You Take This 
for a Picnic ? " 

ONE of the blessings of the influx of people during 
the summer and fall of 1897 lay in the opportu- 
nity it afforded us of learning what was transpir- 
ing in the outside world. Up to the first of July we knew 
just as much about cuiTent events in the United States as 
the people of the United States knew about the Klondike. 
There were a few stories which leaked through, nobody 
knew how. One does not need to go far away from the 
river to acquire a full measure of that bliss which comes 
from ignorance. I have heard of a cultivated German, a 
scientific hermit who has long lived among a colony of In- 



dians in the northern part of Alaska, who did not hear of 
the Franco-Prussian war until three years ago. It is not 
strange. It is the best country in the world for a hermit 
to whom seclusion is the principal thing in life. 

It is a great event on the Yukon when the ice really be- 
gins to go out. It means that in a few days a little steamer 
will come puffing up the river. The old " Yukoner," as a 
usual thing, does not await this event with any impatience 
for the news of the outside world, but with an eagerness for 
something to eat. By the first of June he has ceased to look 
forward with delight to the day when he shall roll in wealth, 
and has begun to anticipate with mingled emotions the time 
when he can get a square meal. Having secured that he 
can afford to be social to new arrivals. 

But the ice in the Yukon generally has an exasperating 
way of moving out. As the river rises some six hundred 
miles south of the Arctic Circle and flows northwest till it 
meets that frigid geographical device, and as the mouth of 
the river usually remains frozen till the first of June or 
later, the ice in the upper part does little for a month but 
" mark time." This it does by breaking into cakes which, 
on acooimt of the dam of solid ice below, slide one over the 
other, and the force of the swift current and ice above 
finally results in such pressure that the cakes stand up al- 
most perpendicularly, sometmies ten feet high. The great 
mass will move along gradually, like people coming out of a 
crowded theater, and like them will finally get out — all 
except a few straggling cakes which for some reason were 
belated. This glacial aspect of the river makes a very 
pretty sight, but it would be pleasanter to watch when less 
hungry. The people on the river generally rush to the 
banks when they hear that the ice has ceased marking time 


and is really going, and they will stand for hours and watch 
it, though I know in my case the thought uppermost in mind 
was something more than that of the piece of moose ham 
which tasted as if it might have been cured during the late 
War of the Rebellion. 

" Grub " came at last. AVe rarely spoke of edibles or 
provisions on the Yukon. It was grub. Being an essential 
of which we often stand in dire need, a short, crisp, forceful 
word was required — something which could be pronounced 
quickly even if the thing itself came slowly and in small 
lots. Dawson gave itself up to square meals for a time, 
though the gold excitement was at its height, and soon it 
began to be visited by new arrivals from over the pass. 
There were some old acquaintances, of course. Some of the 
first were those who had been on the Yukon, but had gone 
out for the winter, and there were some peculiar and in- 
teresting incidents, of course, following such a rich season. 

James McNamee and Charles M. Lamb had been part- 
ners in Alaskan prospecting operations. They had ex- 
plored several creeks in the far north, but fortune had not 
smiled upon them, and in the summer of 1896 Lamb decided 
to return to California and get married. He did so, return- 
ing with his wife the next June. When he and his bride 
stepped from their little boat at Dawson, he was greeted by 
his partner: 

" Lamb, you're worth a fortune. Up in the cabin is 
thirty-seven thousand dollars, which represents your in- 
terest in the amount of money that we have taken out of the 
claims since you went after a ^\^fe." 

It was a very happy incident of a honevmoon in the 

Of course there were alwavs interesting stories of ex- 


periences on the trail to be told by the newcomers. Among 
those who arrived about the first of July was Mr. McKay, 
one of Alaska's pioneer traders, and his wife. She said it 
was the grandest trip she had ever made in her life. Still it 
had its sad incidents. One morning about the first of June, 
while she was at Lake Lindeman, a Mr. Card, who, with his 
wife and child, was making the trip in, and camping at that 
place, came to her t-ent and said that their boy was dead. 
They were young people and this was their first child, a 
baby of seven months. 

" V\^e all showed our sympathy," said Mrs. McKay, " by 
helping all we could in their distress. AVe made a little 
casket of rough wood, padded it with a soft blanket, and 
covered it with some black cloth, lining it with white muslin. 
I laid the baby in it, and then went to one of my trunks, and 
from my best hat took some French "sdolets, which I ar- 
ranged about the baby, putting some in his little clasped 
hand. AVe put up a small tent near the bereaved parents, 
and there the body lay till the next day, when we buried it. 
The little grave was made by tender hands, and a wooden 
tablet at the head tells the traveler who lies there. We also 
built a little picket fence to protect the resting-place, and 
every one who goes over the trail will see it marking the 
close of a brief career." 

This gives a little glimpse of the incidents of that hard 
trail amid the most wonderful scenery in America, and is a 
suggestion of what may happen — of what disheartening 
events did happen when the great rush of two months later 
was inaugurated. 

On June 13th, at Lake Bennett, there was another sad 
occurrence. A man named John ^Fatthews, who, with his 
father, had packed his outfit over the mountain passes, ex- 


perieneing all the slavish drudgery of the task, had at last 
reached the lakes, lie could see the watery way to the goal 
stretched out before him. The sun was shining. It 
seemed that all the hardships had been endured, and that 
the latter part of the journey would be easy, floating down 
the river, turbulent in places, of course, but the water was 
to be his servant. He built his boat, loaded it with his out- 
fit, and started. All went well till the boat struck the whirl 
of the rapids and was swamped. His outfit was at the bot- 
tom of the river as ours had been. Where the accident oc- 
cured, however, the water was shallow and they managed to 
recover most of the goods, though nearly all of them were 
spoiled. Matthews and his father went into their tent and 
were cleaning up their guns. While the latter's back was 
turned a shot was heard. Blue smoke came curling from 
the tent flaps, and the distressed father saw his son lying on 
the gTOund, his head torn by the accidental discharge of his 
gun. His troubles were over. A meeting was called and 
the poor boy was buried there amid the silent and dreary 

A woman who arrived early in the summer with her 
husband and her son told an interesting story of her ex- 
periences and impressions, and it gives a true picture of 
some of the trials of the trail, even before the great rush. 

" Our troubles began," she said, " when we reached 
Dyea. The air rang with noise and confusion. There was 
no wharf there. The steamship lay at anchor two miles 
from shore — that is, from low-water mark. Beyond this 
point up to dry land there was a sea of mud — a dismal 
stretch of mud flats wide away. Everything had to be 
taken ashore in small boats and landed in the mud or on the 
rocks. They had to take out freight as fast as it was landed 


from tlie boats and carry it above high tide. Seventy-five 
or one hundred men were ashore engaged in this kind of 
work. There were a lot of lazy fellows among them, men 
who wouldn't work, who were born tired, and what on earth 
they ever came up there for, where there is nothing but the 
hardest kind of work to do, I can't imagine. I don't know 
how they ever expect to reach the Yukon, or what they ex- 
pect to do when they get here. The horses and cows had to 
swim ashore. It seemed cruel to plunge them into the icy 
water and compel them to swim such a distance. 

"How dismal appeared the outlook! Our sun'ound- 
ings seemed to mirror our feelings. The wild coast scenery 
presented no trace of beauty. The dreary ocean, the awful 
mountains piled on mountains, the rock-ribbed shores with 
their mantle of snow and ice, and the dismal mud flats, all 
conspired to make us feel blue. If I had been faint- 
hearted, I should have felt like giving up then and there. 
Strong men were dismayed at the outlook. Many gave up, 
sold their outfits, and went back. One steerage passenger 
offered his outfit for his passage back. Such pigeon-hearted 
men — men who haven't the courage to say boo to a goose 
— are not cut out for miners. But I just thought to my- 
self, ' I will never say die.' 

" Such a time as we had unloading our goods! A part 
were put on the tide flats, and the rest on the rocks, nearly 
five miles from shore. Some of our packages were washed 
off the rocks. Some people lost a lot of things. One man 
had two thousand gallons of whisky aboard the ship. He 
found many of the kegs floating on the water, also a lot of 
cigars. We had to go on shore before they were through 
unloading. The goods were not checked off, as they should 
have been, but were throAvn out of the boats into the mud 


and on tlio rocks in ntter confusion. The men had to work 
two nights and two days to segregate their freight and to 
save it from being washed away by the tide. We lost a 
sack of hardware, three sacks of feed for the horses, and 
several bales of hay. We also lost one hundred pounds of 
bacon. However, we fared better than we expected. 

" I felt pretty blue, though I tried to look cheerful. I 
could never have imagined a country to be so desolate, 
cheerless, and dismal. Xature, sad, melancholy, and woful, 
seemed even to have stamped her seal upon the Indians and 
their dogs, which latter, as an accompaniment to the death 
song of the winds, were incessantly howling. And such 
lugubrious howls I never heard before. But it just made 
my heart ache to see how cnielly they were treated. Men 
seemed to become heartless up there. The environment, 
perhaps, makes them so. 

" Well, we started out in a snow storm, but under foot it 
was nothing but slush and water and bare ground. We did 
not arrive a day too soon. We were afraid the summit 
would be bad, although on account of the elevation the snow 
might be harder. I felt quite at home in our cosy little 
tent, and baked bread and cookies in our little sheet-iron 
' Yukon stove ' for the first time. It was a perfect little 
jew^el. I kept a pot of baked pork and beans on hand all the 
time, but for the first two days ashore all we had was tea, 
bacon, and biscuits. We would not have had even that 
limited fare had I not taken it from home. 

" ' Homesick any yet? ' asked my husband one evening. 

" ' Xot I,' I replied, but I had a hard struggle. 

" We had not gone far before we met some people com- 
ing out and received the first news of the Klondike. Then 
we were elated beyond measure over the prospect. Every 


Liirden seemed lighter now; every hardship less severe. 
Hope lightened np the gloom of our surroundings and 
thrilled every nerve with joy. Nothing fatigued us, noth- 
ing tired us then. I really felt very glad we had come, and 
the tent even became quite pleasant. 

"There were five women on the trail going over to the 
Yukon, including myself. We all wore men's suits. You 
ought to have seen us. One day I was working at the stove 
when two men came to the entrance of the tent. One man 
said, ' Mister, can you give me a drink of water? ' I said, 
' Yes, sir,' and handed him a dipper of water. While I was 
getting the water the other man made a remark to him not 
audible to me. When he took the water he seemed so dis- 
concerted that I could not refrain from laughing, and he 
said, ' Excuse me. Madam, I thought you were a man.' I 
wore a man's mackinaw suit and cap. We had a lot of fun. 
They all told me that I looked fine in my man's suit. I 
felt like a fish out of water when I first put it on, but soon I 
grew accustomed to it and I liked it better than our regular 
costume. It seemed so funny when I went down hill or 
through wet places, I would instinctively reach around to 
hold up my skirts. Then how they laughed. 

" I got along very nicely, and was all the time very busy, 
and industry, you know, always begets happiness. So I 
was both busy and happy. One day I lined the horse 
blankets, and every day and every hour and every minute 
there was a plenty to do, and how the time flew ! 

" When we started to move through the canon I made 
up my mind to walk, and did for a short distance, but my 
husband insisted on my riding, so they fixed a place for me 
on top of several bales of hay on the sled my son was draw- 
ing. I did not want to ride on his sled as he was always 


letting' it tij^ over, but my liusband said he would be more 
careful if he had me for a passenger. We had two other 
sleds heavily loaded, and my husband had to stay behind and 
watch to keep them from capsizing. We had proceeded 
about four miles when over went the sled, but I jumped off 
in time, and was not even frightened. Afterward several 
bales more of hay were added to the load, and we started off 
with myself perched on top. Presently over it went. My 
son was admiring the grand mountain scenery at the mo- 
ment and paying little attention to his sled. I uttered a 
scream and tumbled over backward, turning a complete 
somersault. I was so frightened that I had a terrible head- 
ache the rest of the day. 

'" We worked along and finally pitched our tent at Camp 
Pleasant, with tall cliffs on either side of us lifting their 
awful forms skyward until they reached the very clouds. 
The awful, solemn grandeur of that mighty mountain fast- 
ness beggars description. The trail to the summit led up 
the eaiion directly in front of our tent. The snow had be- 
come so soft that w^e could not use the horses beyond this 
point, and we had to haul our goods by hand. We had five 
men helping us. Until then the horses had been of great 
assistance. There were tents in every direction about us 
and no conventionality. Anybody was. as good as anybody 
else. Everybody spoke to everybody and got acquainted. 

" At last we got over that terrible summit, but it was 
not half so bad as I expected to find it. It took me about an 
hour to climb to the top. I had two staffs to assist me in 
climbing. The day was so beautiful and the scenery so 
sublimely grand that I really enjoyed the adventure much. 
The weather was good all the time, in fact. Then we went 
into camp to build our boat. I was so glad to take up my 


abode at one place, if only for a little while. This thing of 
packing- up and lueving every few days was something ter- 
rible. 1 was sick for nearly two weeks, but managed to do 
the cooking for the men. 

" Cook? I had to cook all the time. I never saw men 
eat so. They would come in wet through and as hungry as 
bears. They would want something to eat every time they 
came into the tent. The night we camped I promised the 
boys some pancakes for supper, and they ate so many it kept 
me frying for a long time. I made some syrup of sugar. I 
don't make them often. I cooked some evaporated onions, 
and they were very nice. We had very good soup also. I 
made it from beef extract and put in some evaporated vege- 
tables and a little bread. 

'' The day we came over from Lindeman, I walked from 
the mouth of the caiion. They call it nine miles. My! I 
Avas tired, and I was very lame for several days. It was the 
first time I had walked so far. They always insisted on my 
riding; but we had sold the horses and I had to walk. I did 
not want to sell the horses to the man who bought them. 
This man had worked one span of horses to death. I told 
him he could not have our poor horses to kill by overwork. 
He just laughed. While he was at the tent he heard me 
say I wished that we had some tomatoes, and, notwithstand- 
ing the fact that I had talked so harshly to him, he sent me 
two cans. 

" Oh ! yes, those turbulent waters terrified and appalled 
me. I rode through all those awful torrents that the men 
did, and we went through all the rapids excepting White 
ITorse. Everybody made a portage there. My husband 
said these rapids were much worse than last year, and he 
deemed it unsafe to go through. The day we crossed Lake 


Bennett the wind h\c\v very liard, and the hike was exceed- 
ingly rough. How the ^n-eat waves roL-ed and tossed our 
boat about like a feather, Though it contained six tons of 
freight besides ourselves ! You can imagine bow terrified I 
was. From Lake Bennett we entered Three Mile Kiver. 
We had no sooner entered it than our boat got stuck on a 
sand bar. The men had to get into the cold, icy water, 
waist deep, to get the boat oif. We got stuck on sand bars 
several times after that. One time we were delayed for 
three hours. 

" Lake Lebarge was terribly rough, and we ' were ex- 
ceeding tossed with a tempest ' for fifteen long miles. I 
cried nearly all the way. Finally we reached the canon — 
that terrible, awful, appalling cafion, a roaring, seething 
mass of water rushing from both sides and forming a cone 
in the center. Nearly every one landed above it and looked 
it over, but we went right through. We got about half way 
through when a big swell struck the boat, causing the right 
oarsman to fall just as my husband called for a stroke on 
that side. The result was that the boat struck the rocks, 
turned around, and went backward. In trying to turn the 
boat my husband's oar broke like a pipe stem, and they had 
to jerk one of the oars out and give it to him. When the 
boat swung around I surely thought my time had come. I 
did not scream nor utter an audible sound. They say I 
clasped my hands together and did bravely. For the mo- 
ment I was overcome Avith terror and palsied with fright. I 
hope I may never experience such feelings of horror again. 
I felt as if I were in the presence of death, and my thoughts 
traveled fast. There were dozens of people up on the cliff 
looking down on us, but no one could have saved us had the 
boat swamped. We were just three minutes going through. 


The distance is three-quarters of a mile. It seemed an age 
to me. One corner of the boat struck against the wall of 
rock and was smashed in. The boat was soon repaired and 
we proceeded on our journey. 

" The next bad place was Five-Finger Rapids. We 
went through to the right, through a passage among the 
rocks, not much wider than our boat. This is another roar- 
ing, seething torrent of water. I w^^s again terribly fright- 
ened. Just below Five Fingers is the Rink Rapids. Here 
we had to keep to the right shore, a wall of rock, just as close 
as we could to avoid the great boulders over which the water 
madly plunges in a white, seething foam. The men had to 
bend to the oars, and they had all they could do to keep our 
craft off the rocks. Oh, how the water roared! Do you 
wonder that I was frightened? Thank heaven, it is all 
over! I would not take the trip again for all the gold in 
Alaska. But now we're here I'm going to make some gold 
dust, if I have to run a bakery." 

Two things strongly impressed the observer of those 
who flocked in during the summer rush. First the sudden- 
ness with which the decisions to seek fortunes in the gold 
fields had been made. Hardly a man had decided to come 
a week before he started, and a number decided, made their 
preparations, and left all, inside of twenty-four hours, to 
come to a country where a man must carry with him what 
he wants for a year. Second, the exceedingly small num- 
ber of miners there were among them. There were a few, 
but they could be counted on the fingers, and the rest of 
them had never even seen a gold pan, much less wielded 
a pick in the diggings. It was a green crowd, but then, in 
the Klondike, the tenderfoot flourishesand often makes the 
strike the practical miner misses. All, to a man, were hope- 


fill, and not. one seemed to regret tlie step, tliongh as the 
sitnation gradnally dawned upon them,*tlieir pensive faces 
beean to tell of the subduino; character of their thonchts. 

O ?V O 

Many were unfit for the work of mining as it has been 
conducted in Alaska, and a still larger number had no idea 
of what was required. 

The tenderfoot found himself in a city of log houses 
and tents, facing a situation something like this : He could 
live at a tavern for about twelve dollars per day or build 
himself a log house. As, perhaps, he never drove a nail in 
his life, he had to hire carpenters at fifteen dollars a day, 
and, as they were not in the country for their health, they 
made a long job of it unless others are waiting. Finally, 
with pockets sadly depleted, he moved in. 

When this innocent gold-hunter looked about him he 
found that the only way to get a claim on the Ivlondike was 
to buy it, and by that time the cheapest one cost perhaps 
fifty thousand dollars. He might have five hundred dol- 
lars left, perhaps but one hundred dollars, possibly little or 
nothing. The plentiful gold he had been hearing about, 
if above ground at all, belonged to some one else and was 
guarded. If he wanted nuggets he must find them for him- 
self. Where? The old settler would point vaguely to the 
frozen hills and say : 

" Go along and find a creek. Everything is taken up 
for fifty miles around, but you may get something further 
away. ' What shall j-^ou do when you f^nd it? ' First, pay 
the government location tax. Then just move a hundred 
tons of ice to one side. Below that you will find some- 
thing like twenty feet of frozen mud. Just thaw it and toss 
it out. Xear bed-rock you will see gravel. Perhaps there 
will be gold in it, and perhaps not. That's a chance you 


take. Just pile the gravel up and in the spring you can 
wash it out. You can't do so before, because all the water 
will be ice. ' What if there is no gold in it, or not enough 
to pay? ' Oh, then you won't be any worse off than hun- 
dreds of others. You can hire out to other people, perhaps, 
and work around till another freeze comes, which won't be 
very long. What's that? You say your provisions won't 
outlast another winter? Why, man! why didn't you bring 
more, then? Did you take this for a picnic? These are 
the frozen facts, young man, about gold-hunting here. If 
they are not sufficiently frozen, you will be if you disregard 
them when the mercury gets well on the downward path to 
sixty degrees below." 

It is easy to see wdiat a deplorable condition a man is in 
when he faces the necessity of work like this with an in- 
sufficient supply of provisions. A mine-owner, no matter 
how rich he may be in gold, has no food except such as he 
has laid aside for himself, if he has had the foresight or the 
fortune to do so, and only those men can be of use to him 
wdio have the provisions. To endure work of this kind suc- 
cessfully, one needs plenty of substantial food. 


WITH $49,000 IN GOLD. 

A City Laid out on a Bog — Natural Floral Displays — Lousetown — 
A Cold Place in Winter — Fabulous Rise in the Price of Building 
Lots — Expense of Log Cabins — Making jNIoney Quickly — Expe- 
rience of a Cigar Drummer — Clearing 820,000 in Twenty Days in 
Real Estate Options — Better than Mining — Spring Water at Twen- 
ty-five cents a Pail — Money Brought in by New Comers — Bonanza 
Kings and Millionaires — Alec McDonald and His Investments — 
"Satin Bags," the Italian Bonanza King — Indulging in a Square 
Meal at a Dawson Restaurant — " Your Bill is $53 " — How it was 
Itemized — Pack Horses with Gold Dust — One of the Horses 
Missing — An Exciting Mystery — A Vision of Highway Robbers — 
The Lost Horse Returns Safely — Just Stopped to Graze — Found 
Dead with |30,000 — The Strain of Too Hard Work. 

DAAVSOX is laid out with the most approved mathe- 
matical precision on a bog. It is rectangular in 
shape, the streets are sixty-five feet wide, and, in 
summer, about a foot deep in mud. At the bottom is the 
everlasting frost, hard as adamant. As people who have 
become accustomed to the countrv are used to wading, little 
thought is given to this inconvenience, and the summer sea- 
son, if unpleasant underfoot, has some delights, at least, 
overhead and about the hills. The flowers carpet the hill- 
sides, run riot in the valleys, and everwhere clothe the 
countrv in glowing beauty. The soft purple haze as seen 

( 354 ) 


from Dawson on the neighboring hills seems almost like a 
mist, but it is only an embankment of wild heliotrope. 
Wild roses, beautiful and fragrant, wild poppies, and scores 
of delicate small blossoms vary the color. In winter the 
streets are more agreeable in their mantle of snow, which 
covers everything. But the hills are dreary then, very 

Dawson is situated on the northeast side of the Yukon, 
forty miles in a direct line from the Alaska boundary, and 
twice that distance from Avliere the river crosses the line. 
The Klondike lliver comes down on the east side and cuts 
the town site in two. That portion of the town on the 
south side of where the Klondike joins the Yukon is called 
'' Lousetow^n," and, in fact, was the original site used in 
years past as an available camping point, and occasionally 
roving bands of Indians stopped there. At present, a store 
and two or three saloons comprise the business portion of 
the place. Some forty or fifty tents house two hundred or 
three hundred people, and the mountain trail to the mines 
leads past this place. The ground is much higher and dryer 
than on the north side, but owing to the proximity of the 
mountain the site is not large enough for much of a town. 

On the north side of Dawson proper the mountains open 
out and curve around a low marshy piece of land of about 
one hundred acres. There is hardly a spot on the town site 
where the moss and earth cannot be cleared away to a depth 
of twelve or fifteen inches and a cake of frozen ground or ice 
be found. There would seem to be no question as to the 
locality being unhealthy and sid)ject to malarial ailments. 
In other than warm months a strong wind usually blows up 
the Yukon from the north, except Avhen the weather is 
colder than fifty degrees below zero, and then a dead calm 


usually ])i'cvails. Dawson is situated on a bend of the river 
so as to receive the full benefit of the chilling blasts. Back 
on the gulches where the mines are located, the weather is 
considerably more moderate and there is less wind. The 
Yukon in front of Dawson is one-third of a mile wide and 
the addition of the Klondike waters forms a large eddy 
directly in front of the town, and into it the drainage and 
sewage of the city empties. Consequently, the water is im- 
pregnated with foreign elements and has occasioned much 
sickness to those using it. At the lower end of the town 
near the foot of the mountain is a fine spring of good water 
which an enterprising man has monopolized, and water- 
carriers earn as high as forty dollars a day in carrying water. 
A charge of twenty-five cents a bucket is generally exacted. 

As the demand for building lots grew and the evidences 
of the unsanitary condition of the soil became more appa- 
rent, people began to pitch their tents and to build cabins 
on the hillside. Such locations are some distance away 
from the business center, but none too far for such as desire 
to live quietly. The view from these hill residences, over- 
looking Dawson and the river, is fine and in time it will be- 
come, doubtless, a coveted residential quarter. 

September 1, 1896, Dawson City consisted of two log 
cabins, one small warehouse, a sawmill, and a few tents, mtli 
a population of about twenty-five men and one woman. 
Joe Ladue, the founder, was then selling his best lots at from 
five dollars to twenty dollars each, and the prices were con- 
sidered none too low. These same lots in July, 1897, were 
selling at from eight hundred dollars to eight thousand dol- 
lars each, and with every prospect of going still higher. 

In July, Dawson's population had growm to five thousand, 
and every day people were pouring in. Log cabins, sixteen 


by eighteen feet, were renting from forty dollars to seventy- 
five dollars per month, and few were to be had at these 
prices. On every hand cabins and tents were being set up. 
It cost a small fortune to build cabins at Dawson, One of 
average size costs in the neighborhood of one thousand dol- 
lars. Building timber is scarce in the neighborhood of the 
town, logs l)eing brought down the Yukon from ten to 
fifteen miles. 

Never before, I believe, was there such a place to make 
money quickly as in Dawson in 1897; those who took for- 
tune at its tide saw the money fairly roll up in their hands. 
Naturally, there were the usual number who seemed to fail 
to seize the right opportunity, and so worked along making 
but little. But the opportunities were there for those who 
had the business shrewdness to see them. A single example 
will illustrate. Early in the spring a cigar agent or drum- 
mer from Harrisburg, Pa., found himself at Dyea when the 
first news of the Klondike came over the passes. He quit 
his job, sent word to his firm that he was going to the Klon- 
dike, took what cigars he had, and set out; arrived before 
the great influx began, and quickly sold his ten-cent cigars 
for one dollar and fifty cents each. He was only twenty- 
two years of age, but a born business man ; he was all busi- 
ness. He paid no attention to the mines ; indeed, he said he 
didn't care whether he ever saw one or not. There was 
money to be made easier right in Dawson. The speculation 
in town lots was daily becoming livelier, and he knew that 
it would be livelier still when the people began to arrive, so 
he took written sixty-day options on a dozen lots, paid five 
hundred dollars down, and in less than twenty days sold out 
and made twenty thousand dollars cash. 

" That's better than thawing out frozen muck for gold," 


he said. " These mines in Dawson can be worked winter 
and summer." 

Then he took options on more lots at greatly advanced 
prices, for by that time we had heard at Dawson of the ex- 
citement in the States over the new discovery, and we knew 
that soon an army of gold-seekers woidd be pouring in. 
When the people came, he made several thousands more. 
But his business activity was by no means confined to this 
form of speculation. Observing the poor quality and taste 
of the water from the Yukon, he preempted the springs 
back on the hill for a comparatively small sum, and soon 
had a lot of Indians peddling this at twenty-five cents a pail. 
He hired a few women and went into the bread business. 

Money, that is, gold dust, was flying about in all direc- 
tions, and he just put his business instincts to work to catch 
what he could of it. By the end of the year he had two 
hundred pounds of gold ready for shipment to the States 
when the river opened, and altogether he was probably 
w^orth one hundred thousand dollars, all made in six months 
without going near a gold mine. He had every prospect of 
doubling it in the next six months, for in the summer season 
there will be no limit to the demand for his spring water at 
twenty-five cents a pail. He had a fund of Irish wit and 
was very popular. The last I heard he Avas proposing to 
open a bank, and the chances were that he would in tw^o 
years have more gold than two-thirds of those toiling in the 
rich pockets far away on the creeks. 

Enterprising men who started business ventures of this 
kind naturally stood in the way to secure not simply some of 
the gold that came out of the mines, but much of the money 
which was brought in by newcomers. The latter fund was 
greater than one might suppose. Wliile some came in with 


little money, the majority had realized the advantages of 
bringing all they could, and it seems safe to say that at least 
two millions were brought in during 1897. Much of this 
went for town lots and cabins. Those who brought in large 
supplies of provisions were tempted by the fancy prices they 
commanded to sell out all they could afford to, sometimes 
making enough to enable them to secure valuable claims or 

Naturally, the wonderful riches developed in the 
spring's clean-up resulted in a sudden creation of bonanza 
kings and millionaires who threw their dust around with 
lavish hands. Alex. McDonald was conceded to be the 
richest, at least in claims. Before the summer was over he 
owmed interests in twenty-eight claims, and he kept buying 
as fast as he could take the money out of the ground to pa}' 
for them ; indeed, faster. 

" I have invested my whole fortune," he said, " and 
have run in debt one hundred and fifty thousand dollars 
besides, but I can dig out the one hundred and fifty thou- 
sand dollars any time I need it." 

From his general appearance and demeanor one would 
not suppose that he had owned mines which had made him 
rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and all in a single year. 
He is a quiet, unassuming man, and takes his good fortune 
philosophically. He walks about in his rough miner's 
clothes, and is cordial, in his way, to everybody, for no one 
is better than anybody else in Dawson. Lippy and Berry 
were reckoned as second and third in riches, but when 
strikes were being made every day there was always an un- 
certainty as to who could really count up the most wealth. 
An Italian named Antonia, owning some claims on El- 
dorado, gave many evidences of being one of the most con- 


spicuoiis bonanza kings. It was said that lie had given a 
written agreement to pay his housekeeper five hundred dol- 
lars a week, and he actually '' cleaned the town " out of silks 
and satins, so that he obtained the local soubriquet of '" Satin 
Bags." But he could evidently afford to indulge his tastes, 
for all he had to do was to dig up the gold when he wanted it. 

Tastes were, however, a very expensive thing to in- 
dulge in Dawson, and some of the newcomers were sIoav 
in appreciating it. The little experience of two young men 
from the Pacific coast will illustrate the difficulty which 
some had in accommodating themselves at once to the con- 
dition of affairs. They arrived one evening after a rather 
quick and fortunate voyage down the river. Congratu- 
lating themselves on their good luck and having tired of 
camp cooking, one proposed going to the restaurant and 
having a good supper. The proposition was accepted, and, 
entering the first restaurant which had white tablecloths 
and napkins, they ordered a full course and a small bottle 
of wine. The menu consisted of eastern oysters, roast duck, 
moose steaks, and the usual assortment of side dishes. 
There is no doubt but that they greatly enjoyed the sup- 
per, particularly after having lived on bacon, flapjacks, and 
black coffee for a month. Arising and going to the coun- 
ter, one of them threw do^^Ti a twenty-dollar gold piece, and 
taking a toothpick, said : 

" Take out for two." 

" You'll have to come again," said the proprietor. 

"Oh, isn't that enough; well, here's another twenty; 
you will have to excuse me, as we've just arrived and are 
not yet familiar with frontier prices." 

" That's not enough yet, my friend. Your bill is fifty- 
two dollars." 

3 ll. 


" AV-li-a-t, you don't mean to say you're going to charge 
us f-i-f-t-y-t-w-o d-o-l-l-a-r-s for our supper^ Why, in Ta- 
coma it woukhi't cost over seven or eight dollars." 

"Yes, but you're not in Tacoma, and besides, fifty-two 
dollars is what it'd cost you in any other restaurant in Daw- 

" Will you please make out a statement of the expense?" 
meekly asked the young gold-hunter, as he and his partner 
emptied their purses and between them could only pro- 
duce forty-eight dollars and sixty-five cents. The restau- 
rant-keeper made out a slip, which read : 

1 can Eastern oysters for two, $15.00 

1 roast duck for two, ........ 4.00 

3 porterhouse moose steaks, 3.00 

1 pint bottle of champagne, 30.00 

Total, 152.00 

Observing the depressed condition of their finances, and 
tenderly appreciating their embarrassed condition in the 
presence of a dozen miners who were amused at the predica- 
ment of the newcomers, the restaurant-keeper said : 

" Oh, never mind, boys, that's near enough. Here, 
keep this odd change; we've no use for it up here," and he 
handed them back one dollar and fifteen cents in dimes and 

The next morning they were observed in their tent as 
they were getting ready for breakfast. The meal consisted 
of fried bacon, beans, pancakes, and coffee. Their coun- 
tenances bore a serious expression, and after a few pre- 
liminary remarks incidental to the character of the country 
and chilly condition of the weather, a visitor remarked that 
most of the new arrivals preferred to board a few days at the 
restaurants after having been subjected to a bacon and black 
coffee diet for a month. 


'* It's different witli iis," said one, with a sickly attempt 
to smile and a sly glance at bis conn-ade. " AVe took sup- 
per at a restaurant last night and the bill was over fifty dol- 
lars, and it broke the two of us to pay it." 

The sight of gold dust had become an old story to the 
people w^ho had wintered at Dawson, but it w^as a revelation 
which nearly drove the new-comers frantic with impatience 
to acquire some of their own. jSTearly every day a little 
traiii of pack horses would come in from the mines having 
on their backs those precious bags w^hich were more of a 
load than they seemed. 

One day in the early part of September a party with 
seven pack lioi^es loaded with gold came into town from El- 
dorado. The gold was in sacks of one hundred and fifty 
to two hundred pounds, and, of course, the arrival was one 
of the events of the day in a far-away shut-off town where 
everything of that character is an object of interest. When 
the party brought in their horses ready to have the gold 
Aveighed, the leaders of the train were struck with surprise 
and consternation. 

One of the horses was missing ! 

They had started with eight, and upon investigation 
they found that one loaded with one hundred and eighty 
pounds of gold, valued at about forty-nine thousand dollars, 
was not with the othere. It was a mystery which no one 
could explain. ]^o one had seen the animal when it dropped 
out. They had worked their way over the rough trail, and 
supposed that the horses were keeping in line all the way. 
The minutes of consternation grew into hours, and then into 

Xo time was lost in getting back over the trail, making 
inquiries all along the route if a stray horse with one hun- 


(Ired and ciglitj pounds of gold on his back had been seen. 
The hunt lasted all night, and the next day, and the night 
following, and no trace of the animal could be found. 

The matter ceased to be humorous and assumed a serious 
aspect. A vision of highway robbers began to haunt the 
honest miners Avho were sending in their gold. The police 
were called into requisition, but not the faintest clue could 
they get as to the whereabouts of either the animal or the 
gold, though the most diligent search was made in all direc- 

The news spread from camp to camp, and the miners 
began to be of the opinion that a bold highway robbery had 
been committed somehow. The searchers were puzzled be- 
cause the animal wore a clear-toned bell which could be 
heard for some distance, and, though they strained their 
ears to catch the faintest suggestion of the tinkling of that 
bell through the wild country of that trail, not a tinkle could 
they hear. Horse, bell, and forty-nine thousand dollars of 
gold belonging to the Berry brothers seemed to have 
dropped completely out of existence. 

Towards the end of the second day, when the affair was 
assuming an alarming aspect, the lost horse came jogging 
along over the top of the mountain and down into town, 
jingling the bell as though nothing had happened, and with 
the sack of gold still securely strapped on his back ! 

The horse had strayed from the train during the dark- 
ness and had wandered off into a meadow to graze. This 
he had done while carrying about his precious burden, and 
when content he had slowly made his way towards the 

The prevailing ideas as to distance in Alaska and the dif- 
ficulties of moving small distances sometimes are vorv in- 


adequate. For example, some seem to think that a man can 
step out of a dance hall or saloon and in a few moments be 
on his claim ; or if he is on his claim and wishes to drop into 
a store, he can throw down his pick and step over. But 
these mines extend for a hundred miles around Dawson in 
a region almost inaccessible in places. It costs twenty-five 
cents a pound to have things packed from Dawson up to 
some of the mines. This makes a sack of flour that cost 
twelve dollars at Dawson worth nearer thirty-five dollars at 
camps up the stream. 

About the first thing the new arrivals of the summer 
and fall did was to start for " the gulch," a term which was 
used to designate the diggings on Bonanza and Eldorado 
creeks and their tributaries. Whether they were ex- 
perienced miners or not they generally had their eyes 
opened to the resources of the creeks and to the curious 
mode of mining. By that time the gulch was almost a city 
in itself, there being more people there than in Dawson, and 
the center of the population and the meeting-place was at 
the junction of Eldorado and Bonanza. Here, gradually, 
a new city, with all its accessories, was springing up, which 
threatened to rival Dawson itself. It was the center of in- 
dustrial activity, and it tended to keep the miners away 
from Dawson. The miners gave it the name of Eldorado 

Both Protestants and Catholics early established mission 
churches at Dawson and did good work under the greatest 
difiiculties. Rev. Y. C. Gambell and wife started the first 
church, the Presbyterian mission, but they had many dis- 
couragements. They rented the first floor of a log cabin 
and held Sunday services there which were fairly well at- 
tended, though some of your city ministers would have 


winced at the surroundings. The top floor of the building- 
was used as a lodging house, and the missionaries had hardly 
become settled when a drunken lodger upstairs overturned 
a candle and the building was burned to the ground. 
Nothing was saved, and tlie outfits of ten men were de- 
stroyed. Fire from a similar cause broke out on Thanks- 
giving evening and destroyed the opera house and two 
saloons. Only the snow on the roofs saved the rest of the 
buildings on the street. 

The sanitary condition of the place was better than could 
have been expected from its situation. Many of the in- 
stances of sickness and death were more or less traceable to 
carelessness, neglect, overwork, and excitement, the re- 
laxation of the mental and physical strain being too much 
for some to endure. Some men had lived on barely noth- 
ing, and that half-cooked. The excitement of washing and 
accumulating the gold was so great that many men devoted 
their entire time to it when they should have devoted some 
to cooking, cleanliness, and rest. One man, after he had 
washed out thirty thousand dollars of gold, began to have 
the idea that he was going to be robbed. The mental strain 
was too great for him, for he was found one morning dead 
in his tent with his thirty thousand dollars under his head. 

In the early fall symptoms of typhoid began to manifest 
themselves and there were several cases in the hospital. 
There had been a continual dread of this disease on account 
of the filthy condition of the streets of the town, but during 
the summer the general health appeared to be good. It 
takes a little time, however, for the germs to work in the 
system, and in the fall months those who had become en- 
feebled by hardships or improper food began to show the 


Two brothers, Robert and Charles Carlson, rich owners 
of claims on Bonanza Creek, succumbed to the disease jja 
July. They had just sold their claims for fifty thousand 
dollars and were preparing to leave the country for the win- 
ter, when they were stricken down. They had been amono- 
the fortunate ones who arrived early when Bonanza was dis- 
covered. They worked hard during the winter to prepare 
for the spring sluicing. Success attended their efforts, but, 
weakened by them, they fell an easy prey. 

Dawson has been growing right along during the past 
winter. An occasional dip of the mercury to forty-five 
degrees or fifty degrees below zero has had no effect on the 
building operations there. All winter long Front street — 
practically the only one in Dawson — has resounded 
with the sound of chopping and hammering on new houses 
and stores. Some of the more recent building improve- 
ments of the town comprise about one hundred and fifteen 
log cabins, three log churches — Catholic, Episcopal, and 
Methodist — and six hundred tents, that had been boarded 
up about the bottom to make them more agreeable to the 
occupants. The business part of the town consists of log 
and rough pine board buildings arranged in a straight line 
and close beside one another. In these structures are fifteen 
saloons, two barber shops, several butcher shops, and half a 
dozen restaurants, two real estate offices, and one hardware 

The largest buildings in that region arc two substantial 
storehouses built by the Alaska Commercial Company and 
the iSTorth American Transportation Company. Each is 
two stories high, and covers about eight thousand square 
feet. To show how^ it costs to build up there, I have only 
to say that one of these storehouses, with a good concrete 


foundation, cost exactly ninety-three thousand five hundred 
dollars in September, 1897. The same structure could be 
built in the Middle States for about four thousand dollars, 
and on the Pacific coast for four thousand five hundred dol- 
lars. Log cabins twenty by twenty-four feet now cost from 
three thousand dollars to four thousand five hundred dol- 
lars. The logs are hewn on three sides and the chinks are 
plugged with mud and moss. The roofs are constructed of 
three layers of pine boards, upon which moss and earth are 
packed to the depth of a foot. 

Some of the recent quotations at Dawson will give a fair 
idea of the ratio of demand to supply : Pine logs, two dol- 
lars and fifty cents and three dollars each; window glass, 
fifty cents a pound; tenpenny nails, sixty cents a pound; 
meat, seventy-five cents a pound. Carpenters who can do 
fairly good work get eighteen to twenty dollars a day; com- 
mon laborers get three-quarters of an ounce of gold a day — 
about twelve dollars. 



Saloons and Gambling the Natural Products of New Mining Camps — 
Strange Sights and Sounds — Gold Dust as Free as Water — Sa 
loons and Their "Brace Games" — Who Pay the Fiddlers — Ex- 
pensive Society — " Stud-Horse Poker" and High Stakes —Meth- 
ods at the Faro Table — Gold Bags in Pigeon Holes — Settling Up — 
"Shorty's" Fatal Forgetfulness — Few Instances of Shooting 
Now — Ruling Prices in Saloons — The "Rake Off" — When 
"Swiftwater Bill" Breaks Loose — Losing $7,500 in an Hour — 
Appearance of Gambling Places — The Dance Halls and the 
Women — Gallant Partners in Spiked Boots — An Occasional Free 
Fight — Tobacco-Laden Atmosphere — Tired and Dishevelled 
Women — More Orderly than Mining Camps in the Rockies — 
Not a Hard, Reckless, Wide-Open Town — Harvard, Yale, and 
Vassar Graduates. 

IX the matter of iniqiuty, siicli as prevails in musliroom 
towns in mining districts, Dawson was not slow in 
eclipsing all rivals on tlie Yukon.' Xever before had 
such a crowd of people pounnl into the Yukon valley, and a 
rough floating element, which had quicklv pcrcei-^'ed the 
possibilities of operation in a place over which evervbody on 
the Pacific coast was going wild, were soon plying their oc- 
cupations in the city. Still, there were no scenes of dis- 
order, or what are reckoned as such in a place like this. 
Saloons and gambling were the natural products of such 



a population in a far away mining camp, and no mining 
camp was ever so far away as these on the Yukon. Circle 
City bad emptied itself, and so had Forty Mile. In those 
once thriving places the saloons were deserted and the dance 
halls silent. 

Early in the first season, or soon after the discovery, 
one of the Circle City dance hall proprietors had come up 
the river, got together enough logs for the sides and ends of 
a house, put a tent roof over it, and then on one of the boats 
came the first piano in Dawson and a lot of girls. A dance 
house was in immediate operation. Others followed 
quickly, and in the summer of 1897 it was the liveliest town 
imaginable, a city of many strange sights and sounds. 
With the sound of the hammer and the axe mingled the 
howling of the dogs, the squeaking of the violin, the jingling 
notes of the piano, and the harsh voice of the prompter — 
*' balance all," " ladies' change," " swing yer pards." Dur- 
ing the summer, when it was light all the time, tlic public 
resorts were wide open every hour in the day. The saloons 
never closed, and gambling went on without cessation. 

Many queer incidents occurred, showing how cheaply 
the gold dust was esteemed by some of the miners. One 
l)oy, who had been working hard all day on his claim, said, 
when he had finished : 

'' Now, I'll just pan out one pan for the boys." 

As a result he came to town, entered one of the saloons, 
treated everybody there several times, lost thirteen dollars 
at faro, and still had thirty dollars left. 

Every saloon was, of course, provided with a number of 
gambling devices, and it was perfectly natural to suppose 
that they were of that character called " brace games," that 
is, so arranged as to make it extremely difficult for an out- 

372 THE gambler's harvest 

sider to win a dollar. Even faro boxes and cases worked 
double, and tlie dealer generally knew what to do when it 
was necessary to make a certain card win. He who sat 
down to a promiscuous poker table was either reckless or 
ignorant. Of course, these things were intended to catch 
the tenderfoot, or the old miner who had come in from a 
season of hardship and had consoled himself with about the 
worst stuff that ever went by the name of whisky. The pro- 
fessional gamblers reaped the harvest, and the tenderfeet 
and the hardworking miners paid the fiddlers. But gold 
was cheap. Miners did not hesitate a minute to drop it for 
a little fun. And they seldom grumbled at the cost. 

It was difficult for an economical man to get around " in 
society " for less than fifty dollars a day. I heard of people 
who spent five hundred dollars a day just in killing time 
while waiting for the steamer to go out with their gold. 
The games were exceedingly stiff, and it was not an uncom- 
mon thing to see a miner throw down his sack and bet from 
a hundred up on the highest card. " Stud-horse poker " 
was the popular game, and it would often cost from fifty 
dollars up to draw a card. 

A gambler, winning or losing from five hundred dollars 
to three thousand dollars at a single sitting, was not worthy 
of passing comment. In fact, games involving five thou- 
sand dollars or ten thousand dollars were running night and 
day. Professional dealers of " banking games " received 
twenty dollars a day. 

The manner of hazarding money is unique even in a 
mining camp. The player takes his seat at a faro table, 
passes over his sack of gold dust to the dealer, who drops it 
into a small pigeon-hole. The chance of " overplaying his 
sack " devolves upon the player's honor. He is given full 


credit and can call for as many chips from the check rack 
as he desires. As the checks are passed out a tab is dropped 
on his sack. At the conclusion of the play the chips on 
hand are credited to the account of the sack. The dealer 
hands the player a slip of paper showing the condition of the 
account, and the latter takes it and his sack of gold to the 
bar. If he has lost he weighs out his gold dust, or, in the 
event of winning, the barkeeper does the paying. At first 
glance it would seem that such a system would afford con- 
siderable temptation for dishonest men to walk out with 
their sack of gold without settling their accounts. Only 
one or two instances of the kind liaA^e occurred and the con- 
demnation of the community has inflicted such punishment 
as to warrant the non-repetition of the offence. 

About four o'clock one morning a miner known as 
'^ Shorty " left his seat at the table where he had been play- 
ing all niglit, saying that he had gone broke. The dealer 
handed him his bag of dust and his slips, the latter cor- 
responding almost to a grain with the value of the gold. 
" Shorty " walked over to the bar and invited a couple of 
other miners to have a drink. Then he was seized with a 
fatal fit of forgetfulness. 

He edged toward the door and was about to push it open 
when the bartender called to him: " Say, Shorty, haven't 
you forgot something? " 

The door swung out. When it rebounded it stopped 
half way, and a draught of icy air came in. There had 
been a sudden flash of flame, a ringing report in that low- 
ceiled, smoke-darkened room, and the door as it swung in- 
ward was obstructed by the body of a dying man. 
" Shorty " was buried the next day. But this was in the 
early days of Dawson. It was not long bc^fore it l)ecame an 


offense to carry firearms about and a better order was en- 
forced. Dawson, for sucli a lively and mixed settlement, 
has afi'orded few instances of " shooting." 

Saloons, of course, were " wide open " and did not pay a 
license. As a rule tliey sold a fair class of beverages. 
Drinks and cigars retailed, as at Circle City, at fifty cents, 
and the two breweries that are located near by could not 
supply the demand for beer at one hundred and twenty-five 
dollars a keg. A poor quality of champagne was retailed at 
thirty dollars a pint, and a better quality at ten dollars 
higher. As at Circle City, in liqiTidating indebtedness at 
the bar, the individual doing the honors passed his sack 
over to the barkeeper, who poured out enough gold dust to 
settle the account. It is unnecessary to add that the bar- 
keepers were never charged with neglecting to take enough 
dust, and particularly when the patrons are somewhat under 
the influence of copious libations. Saloon men admitted 
privately that the " rake-off," as they term overweighing, 
amounts to about thirty or forty cents on each two dollars 
and fifty cents spent over the bar. The receipts for sixty 
days last smumer in one saloon amounted to one hundred 
and twenty-four thousand five hundred dollars, and the day 
the successful miners were taking their departure on the first 
steamer of the season the receipts amounted to six thousand 
five hundred dollars. Hardly a saloon in to^vn was re- 
ceiving less than three hundred dollars a day, besides win- 
ning large sums of money at the gambling games. Bar- 
keepers were paid from twelve dollars and fifty cents to 
twenty dollars a day, and even the porters, where such 
luxuries were deemed necessary, were paid from seven dol- 
lars and fifty cents to ten dollars. 

" Swiftwater Bill " owned some of the richest claims on 


Eldorado Creek, and when lie broke lo<3se the dust was 
sure to lly. Bill took a seat at the faro table one night, and 
in just one hour he had lost seven thousand five hundred dol- 
lars in gold nuggets, 

" Things don't seem to be coming my way to-night," he 
remarked as he rose from his seat and stretched himself. 
" Let the house have a drink at my expense." 

There was a rush for the bar, and waiters carried drinks 
to the various tables where games were in progress. That 
round cost Bill one hundred and twelve dollars. Then he 
lighted a dollar and a half cigar and strolled out. 

The gambling saloons, in external appearance, are very 
much like all the other buildings in Dawson, except that 
they are larger. They are built of logs hewn on three sides 
and solidly chinked with heavy moss. The roofs are made 
of poles, on which a layer of moss fully ten inches thick is 
laid, and then a layer of dirt about twelve inches deep serves 
to keep out the cold. Heavy embankments of earth piled 
up against the huts on the outside serve as additional pro- 
tection against the chilling blasts of the Arctic winter gales. 
A few saloons are built of lumber, with double walls, 
l)ctween which sawdust and moss are tightly packed, but old 
Yukoners are of the opinion that buildings so constructed 
are inadequate against the severe cold weather. 

Dance halls are constructed in the same manner and are 
generally the largest buildings in town, except the store- 
houses. They are opened at about seven or eight o'clock in 
the evening, and the band plays on till late in the morning. 
The amusement continues night after night. The halls are 
crowded with gallant beaux, the most of them having heavy 
spiked-bottom shoes, broad-brimmed hats, costumed in the 
regulation mining suits, and, with cigars between their 

376 "SASHAY all!" 

teeth, tli(\v present an odd appearance. Tliey sit around 
the hall on the benches, smoking and talking and immensely 
enjoying the relaxation from the hard monotony of the 
mines. Each dance costs one dollar, and I have lie^rd of 
one man in three nights spending seven ounces of gold, or 
one hundred and nineteen dollars, for the luxury. In some 
of the halls a free fight sometimes concludes the festivities 
along toward morning. Occasionally, men will come to 
blows in attempting to win the hand of some woman for the 
succeeding dance. '' Fair play " is the watchword, and the 
best skilled pugilistic gladiator goes to the head of the set 
and his rival goes home. 

Even if one is not a dancer and has rather strict ideas of 
what proper female society should be, he will miss a good 
deal of fun if, when he goes to town from his dreary camp, 
he does not look in and watch the miners enjoying a little 
relaxation. One scene is much like another. You enter a 
large building with a smooth floor sometimes overlaid with 
heavy drill. You could almost cut the tobacco-laden atmos- 
phere with a knife. Through the blue haze the figures of a 
couple of musicians can be faintly distinguished, fiddling 
away for dear life, and calling out, " Sashay all! " " Ladies' 
throiigh! " as the occasion demands. They receive twenty 
dollars a night or more for doing this, and they earn every 
penny of it. 

At one side, extending the entire lengi"h of the room, 
is the bar, and the three dispensers of drinks are kept quite 
as busy as the fiddlers. Beer, whisky, and cigars are retailed 
at fifty cents. A poor quality of champagne sells for thirty 
dollars a pint, and a somewhat better brand brought forty 

Of course, the men greatly outnumber the women. 


There are probably a dozen of the latter, some of them 
young and quite pretty. They have little or no time to rest 
between the dances, and when the morning sun peeps over 
the eastern mountains he finds them a tired and somewhat 
dishevelled lot. But some of the belles of the " dancing- 
set " have been known to make as much as a hundred dollars 
a night tripping the light fantastic toe for the delight of 
miners at once lavish and well-stocked with dust. 

But while the money that is spent in saloons and dance 
halls, and the money that is lost continually over the various 
gambling devices, may seem to be enormous, it must be re- 
membered that these hardworking miners in their dreary 
camps become at times fairly desperate for a little relaxation 
from the severe hardships of their existence. If they are 
lucky, gold dust becomes to them a cheap commodity. It 
means very little to them when at any time they can dig out 
all they want. Making all allowances for men of bad char- 
acter, certain to drift into such places, my observations con- 
vince me that Dawson is now a less vicious and more orderly 
place than the new mining camps of the Rockies were. 
The severity of life on the Yukon has kept out many desper- 
ate characters, and the Klondike has now been largely filled 
up with people who, while they may not have been experts 
in mining, have a taste for an orderly life, and are too solici- 
tous to make their fortunes and leave the country to squan- 
der money recklessly. 

The population of Dawson and the camps that line 
the creeks that twist away south, east, and southeast from 
the Klondike and Yukon is as intelligent as any I have ever 
known in any mining camp in the West. Indeed, it is the 
most moral and ambitious mining population I have ever 
seen. A number of old professional miners are up there, 


who liavt' seen the oihled ^ambling palaces of Virginia City, 
and have lived in the hot days of Bodie, Tombstone, Ana- 
conda, and Creede, and they have remarked many times 
that the miners of the Klondike are another race of men 
from those they used to know in the States. To be sure, 
there is gambling and liberal drinking of the hardest of 
hard whisky, but they say the scenes are never comparable 
with what they used to witness every night when the 
Bonanzas were ponring out their golden wealth and Tomb- 
stone was making a dozen new millionaires. 

The present Klondike miners are not the typical, pic- 
turesque miners the world has been hearing about for half a 
century. It is my private opinion that the awful hardships 
one endures to get rich up there, the dangers that must be 
braved, and the privations suffered in getting to the new 
gold fields by any route, make men there sober and provi- 
dent. Where men have these characteristics they take 
fewer chances in gambling. Then, too, the expense of get- 
ting to Klondike and the necessary expenditure of several 
hundred dollai-s for an outfit keep out of the Alaskan min- 
ing region a horde of hard-up, desperate characters similar 
to those that have made all the western mining camps so 
notoriously bad. I doubt if Dawson ever will be a hard, 
reckless, wide-open to^^^l in the sense that Virginia City 
and Cripple Creek have been. It has had during the win- 
ter of 1897-98 a population of about two thousand men and 
one hundred and twenty women, with about four thousand 
five hundred more miners in the cabins along the creeks, 
and there have been few more orderly and earnest com- 
munities anywhere in the T'nion. I never knew so many 
well-educated, thoughtful, and promising men in any camp 
as there are at Daw'son to-day. Some are Harvard and 

A DAWSON M.D. 381 

Yale graduates. Two young women, wives of ambitious 
young miners, are from Vassar College, and a physician, 
who lives there in a log cabin, plastered with mud, was edu- 
cated at Columbia College and at the University of Paris. 
I think he is contented. Anyhow, he ought to be for a 
year or two. He gets half an ounce of gold for each visit, 
and for simple surgical work his bill runs into ounces of 
gold very quickly. It seems to me that he ought to clear up 
two or three pounds of gold every week in the year. 

The wealth is earned by such hard work and exposure 
that the better class of miners do not like to throw their 
earnings over the bar with the recklessness that charac- 
terized the miners in the flash mining days of the West. 
Moreover, one may readily see that a climate where the wind 
blows and moans twenty hours out of every twenty-four, 
and where the mercury fluctuates between two degrees 
above zero and forty below for five months in the year, is 
not conducive to conviviality and hilarity as the warm, 
balmy climate of Tombstone and Virginia City were. 



Too Many Sports for the Demand — The Arrest of Frank Novak, the 
Murderer — History of His Crime — Enticing an Irish Farmer to 
His Death — Searching for Novak — The Wrong Man Arrested — 
Another Clue — It Takes tlie Detective to Vancouver — Searching 
Resorts on the Coast — Every Ship's Crew Questioned — Requisi- 
tion on the Governor of Alaska — Gone to the Klondike — Extradi- 
tion Papers from Washington — Taken to Ottawa — Over the 
Chilkoot in Pursuit — Passing the Fugitive without Suspecting 
Him — The Pursued Follows the Pursuer — Arrival at Dawson — 
Searching the Camps — Giving it Up — Arrest of the Murderer — 
Returning by the Yukon — A Chase of 25,000 Miles. 

IT was natural, and to be expected, that tlie Klondike 
shonld prove a tempting refuge for those who had 
some penalty to escape in the States. It is in the 
Xorthwest Territorv, and so criminals escaping from the 
officers of the law in the United States must be extradited. 
Moreover, it is so far removed that it seems impossible for 
the law to reach them after they arrive at Dawson, where 
there is no thought gi^'en to the antecedents of the in- 
habitants or of those who enter too rapidly to be observed. 
Besides all this, Dawson and the mines offer opportunities 
for making money which have attracted thousands wdio had 
nothing to run from. Many sporting men and gamblers 
hastened to the new field, but the supply of gambling de- 



vices rather exceeded the demand, and in time these men 
found more commendable means of earning a livelihood. 

The truth is that the richness of the mines has attracted 
even men of a sporting turn into paths of industry. Several 
well-known Pacific coast sporting men have to a certain ex- 
tent abandoned the green cloth and taken up the profession 
of mining. Nearly all those who cling to the gambling 
profession have acquired claims and have been hiring men 
to work them. Frank P. Slavin as a mining man is real- 
izing more dollars than he ever did in the prize-ring. He 
is one of the best workers in the country, and by hard rust- 
ling has acquired interests in twelve or fifteen placer claims 
and one quartz lode. A Portland, Ore., sport, who has the 
reputation of "^ never having turned a crooked card," has 
retired from the green cloth, donned a miner's suit, and 
with pick and shovel is digging gold out of claim 62 
below on Hunker Creek. Another Seattle sport is now the 
owner of four promising claims which are being worked this 
winter. There is hardly a sporting man in the Klondike 
who does not own valuable mines. Late in the autumn of 
1897, between forty and sixty sports arrived without pro- 
visions, and they were compelled to pass on do'wn the river 
to Fort Yukon to spend the winter. 

Those who came to Dawson to escape the penalty of 
crime found that they were not entirely safe. One of the 
most notable cases occurring in the summer qf 1897 was 
that of the arrest of Frank Novak, after a chase which reads 
like a romance, full enough of adventure, danger, and hard- 
ship to satisfy the most morbid novel reader. 

Frank Alfred Novak, familiarly known as Frank Novak 
among his acquaintances, was, in 1890, conducting a mer- 
cantile and banking business at the little town of Walford, 


in Benton county, la. He had for his partners in business 
a widowed sister and a brother-in-law, and to the outside 
world was apparently doing a prosperous mercantile busi- 
ness, besides a sort of accommodation and loan business in 
the way of a private bank, wdiere the farmers and residents 
of the town did their banking transactions. The apparent 
prosperity of the firm was, however, purely superficial, as 
Novak had contracted a gambling mania and was qiuetly 
but surely robbing the firm of its assets by playing the grain 
market in Chicago. In three or four years he had squan- 
dered his own substance, and robbed his immediate relatives 
and friends of more than twenty thousand dollars, which 
had been entrusted to him as business manager in the store 
and banker for the village. The day of reckoning was fast 
approaching, and Xovak, realizing that the denouement 
would blast the confident hopes of those about him, pro- 
ceeded to take out thirty thousand dollars of life and acci- 
dent insurance, and then deliberately set about to procure a 
victim to be used in his own stead as a cremated corpse upon 
which his beneficiaries could draw the insurance. He also 
had the stock of goods and the store building in which he 
was doing business insured for about their full value, and 
took into his confidence a near relative, who was designed to 
collect the insurance after the disappearance of Trank 

A pretext of danger to the stock of goods through ex- 
pected burglare or incendiaries was invented, and Xovak 
began sleeping in his store, ostensibly to guard against such 
calamity. He also began assiduously plying his ac- 
quaintances, who chanced to be about the same age, build, 
and weight as himself, with invitations to sleep with him in 
the store. These invitations, fortunately, were declined 


by each person approached, until the night of February 2, 
1807, when a reputable young Irish farmer by the name of 
Edward Murray acceded to Novak's solicitations and re- 
mained with him in the store up to the hour of retiring. 
They were seen together at 11:30 P. M., and at 1:30 A. M. 
of February 3d the building was discovered on fire, and was 
soon a mass of ruins, with the conviction forced upon every 
spectator that Novak and Murray had been consumed in the 
conflagration. Upon searching the cooling embers, how- 
ever, it was found that only one partly charred corpse was 
in the remains of the building, and, while a number of in- 
effectual attempts were made by interested parties to estab- 
lish the identity of this corpse as that of Frank Novak, the 
anatomical differences were so great and the dental dis- 
tinctions so peculiar that a coroner's jury found no great 
difficulty on considering the evidence laid before them in ar- 
riving at a verdict that the remains were those of Edward 
Murray, and that no trace of Frank Novak was left in the 

Steps were at once taken by the authorities of the State 
of Iowa and the county of Benton to search out and ap- 
prehend Frank Novak, and other persons took a hand in the 
matter, securing Thiol's detective service to prosecute the 
search for the murderer. Detective C. C. Perrin was de- 
tailed to handle the case. He was peculiarly fitted for it. 
Tall, of medium weight, he has the figure and muscles of an 
athlete. His square-cut chin and mouth show the grit and 
force that finally brought Novak to bay. 

A trail was struck, and, although the offense was several 
weeks old when the detective started upon the case, Novak 
was followed across the country on foot over several coun- 
ties in Iowa, and then by conveyance an equal distance, 


being landed in Iowa City, which was believed to be a 
happy rendezvous for him, as he was known to have friends 
living at that place. Some time elapsed before any further 
clue was obtained to the movements of the murderer, and 
he was believed to be in hiding in that city or vicinity until 
the description of a man tallying with that of Novak was 
picked up from the appearance of a passenger on a train 
bound for an eastern port, and, in following up this clue, it 
developed that this man was a Bohemian, and as Xovak 
was a Bohemian-American, he was believed to be the same 

The trail was followed to Baltimore, Md., where ship- 
ping agents and others recognized the photograph and de- 
scription of Xovak as answering to that of a man who had 
arrived at that port and shipped for Bohemia on the 18th of 
February. A cablegram was immediately sent to Mr. 
Keenan, American consul in Gennany, who had the pas- 
senger described apprehended on the arrival of the steamer 
HaUe at Bremen on March 1st, and after several days' 
cabling and comparisons of descriptions it was decided that a 
case of mistaken identity had led to the arrest of the wrong- 
man, and this clue had to be dropped. 

The detective again returned to Iowa City, and, after a 
prolonged search in and about this place, a clue was finally 
struck on the 11th day of March in the shape of a descrip- 
tion of a passenger who bought a ticket at midnight on Feb- 
ruary 3d to Omaha, Xeb., over the Chicago, Rock Island tt 
Pacific Railroad. By a diligent inquiry among railway and 
sleeping-car employes who had been in charge of the cars 
and train on the date named, the representative of Thiel's 
service was satisfied that he was on the right track, and im- 
mediately went to Omaha, where an active search was taken 


up, and by the aid of tlie local police department in the 
course of a couple of days the fleeing man's identity was 
once more established by description and photograph in the 
person of a passenger who bought a ticket over the Union 
Pacific system from Omaha to Vancouver, B. C. 

The detective was now five weeks behind the fleeing 
murderer, but, nothing daunted, took the next train for 
Portland, Ore., where a stop was made and search instituted 
to see if the ticket had been used through to Vancouver, or 
if the passenger had stopped off at Portland, as is frequently 
done by persons seeking to get a cut rate to the Pacific coast. 
The detective's knowledge of this phase of railroad travel 
proved most fortunate, for, after a quiet inquiry at Portland, 
running over a couple of days, it was discovered that Novak, 
using the name of Frank Alfred on his ticket, had stopped 
at Portland and cashed the portion reading to Vancouver 
with a broker at the former place. 

Being at sea once more as to the probable course taken 
by the fugitive, still five weeks ahead of the detective, the 
latter began a quiet search of all the hotels, lodging houses, 
mercantile establishments, employment agencies, steamship 
and railroad ticket offices, and other points where informa- 
tion might be obtained touching a transient stranger, and 
for a while it looked as though every trace of Novak had 

Portland and its suburbs were submitted to this exhaus- 
tive kind of inquiry for a number of days, without dis- 
covering any trace whatever of Novak's presence or move- 
ments, and inquiry was finally extended to San Francisco 
and other seaport towns on the Pacific coast with a view to 
picking up a clue at some remote point, on the belief that 
Novak had eluded notice in passing through Portland. All 


returning steamers from ocean voyages as they landed at 
Pacific coast points were met on tlieir arrival, and the several 
crews and any returning passengers who had been on the 
outgoing trips were carefully questioned touching any one 
answering Novak's description having gotten aboard at any 
other coast point on any of the recent trips of the steamers 
since February 7th, which was the known date of his arrival 
at Portland. 

On March 31st, at the end of a couple of weeks' search 
of this character, the steamer Al-Ki, returning from Sitka, 
was met at Seattle, and upon being interrogated all of the 
officers and crew and one returning passenger at once recog- 
nized Xovak's photograph, and were capable of giving an 
accurate description of him in the person of a passenger who 
embarked on the Al-Ki at Port Townsend February 23d, 
ticketed for Juneau. They also added the inf onnation that 
he had been seen in Juneau a week or ten days previous, as- 
sociating with a prospector who was going mth other gold- 
liunters into the mining district up the Yukon. This in- 
formation was promptly wired to headquarters of the Thiel 
detective service, where steps were at once taken to procure 
requisition papers for ISTovak. By the prompt action of the 
State officers, the requisition was at once obtained on the 
governor of Alaska for ISTovak, though, as it transpired, 
ISTovak had not been indicted in Benton County, Ta,, on the 
date previously reported, as the grand jury had been so 
pressed with business that it could not take up this ease. 

While these proceedings were being had in Iowa, Per- 
rin, who Avas following I^ovak, embarked on the first 
steamer for Alaska, which proved to be the Al-Ki, leaving 
Seattle April 4th, and the requisition papers were forwarded 
to him at Juneau by mail from Des Moines, la., on April 


7tli, to reach him by the next steamer sailing for the gold 

After the requisition papers on the governor of Alaska 
had been procured, it was ascertained that Novak had left 
Junean for the gold fields of the Yukon River in Canada, 
when it became necessary to procure extradition papers on 
the governor of Canada. A detective went to Iowa to 
secure the necessary papers; from thence he went to Wash- 
ington, D. C, to secure the signature of the President and 
Secretary of State to same. He then went to Ottawa, all 
of the officials concerned giving the matter the utmost ex- 
pedition, so that he was enabled to reach the Pacific coast 
on May 20th, three months and a half behind the fugitive 
Novak, sailing from Victoria on the steamer Mexico May 
24th for Juneau. Here he outfitted for the trip into the 
Yukon country, going in by way of the Chilkoot Pass at 
Dyea. Another detective was sent to St. Michael, about 
three thousand miles away, to watch all steamers arriving 
there from the Yukon gold fields, to see that Novak did not 
escape on some of the sailing vessels leaving that port for 
dificrent parts of the world. 

June 8th Perrin left Juneau with a year's outfit for 
Dyea, going over the Chilkoot Pass to Lake Lindeman, 
where he built a boat. 

At the same time Novak and his party were completing 
a boat on Lake Bennett, but a few miles further on. They 
had taken in a big lot of supplies, and in getting them over 
the pass and in making ready for the trip down the river had 
consumed over a month of time. 

One morning Perrin and his Indian guides set sail in 
their boat on their journey. At the same time Novak's 
party started on Lake Bennett in a rude scow. Early in 


tlic afternoon Perrin saw the scow ahead of liini on Lake 
Bennett, and rapidly overhauled it in his light sailboat. He 
went within a hnndred feet of the boat and exchanged good- 
natured, joking salutations with its occupants as he swept 
past, never dreaming that one of the number was the man 
he sought. 

" That scow^ wasn't built for a racer, was she? " shouted 
the detective. 

" She's slow, but sure," was the reply. 

" "Well, good-bye," said the detective as his boat drew 

" So long," returned Xovak, " Save a little of the gold 
for us." 

" Of course." 

From there on down the river for a thousand miles into 
the diggings the pursuer was followed by the pursued. Per- 
rin reached Dawson ten days ahead of his man, and at once 
began a sharp search for him, quickly coming to the con- 
clusion that he was not in Dawson. Xo one remembered 
having seen a man answering the description. Then the 
detective went over the trails to the camp and searched in 
vain along the creeks. He returned to Dawson very much 
puzzled. Finally, he concluded that ISTovak must have gone 
up the Stewart River, without coming to Dawson. There 
were reports of several miners prospecting on that stream 
with good results, and many tenderfeet w^ere making prepa- 
rations to go up there. The detective concluded that he 
would go, too, and this meant that he would have to winter 
there. He was about ready to start when the scow which 
he had passed on the way in was pushed up to the beach at 
Dawson. Perrin walked over towards the men to exchange 


"Jingo! " he exclaimed under bis breath as he came, 
closer to the scow. He remembered his photograph and 
was pretty snre he had his man, but he talked good- 
natnredly with Novak, and then laid the matter before 
Captain C. Constantine of the Canadian mounted police. 
In a few hours Novak was arrested by Captain Constantine 
and turned over to Perrin. 

Perrin placed his prisoner in a boat and that night 
started down the river during a heavy storm for Fort 
Cudahy, where three days later, he took the steamer P. J. 
Healey for St. llichael. The two thousand miles down the 
river were made in eleven days, and then came a two-weeks 
wait for the Portland. From St. Michael to Seattle, and 
at all times during the entire trip, a continuous watch was 
kept over Novak by Perrin and two assistants. Then he 
started east with his man, and when he delivered him 
safe in the Iowa jail he had been over six months constantly 
on the go, during which time he had traveled nearly twenty- 
five thousand miles and endured many of the hardships of 
the Yukon. 



A Little Home Life — Two White Women in Camp the First Winter — 
Mrs. Lippy the Pioneer — Mrs. Berry's Story of Her Journey — Be- 
ginning to Despair — Starting for the Klondike — A Cabin Unfit to 
Live In — Picking Up Nuggets of Gold — Wading in Mud Waist 
Deep — Housekeeping No Joke — Arrival of a Plucky Little 
Wife — Makes Her Home on a Scow — On Terra Firma at Last — 
An Eye to Business — One Hundred Dollars a Month for Caring 
for Two Children — In Doubt as to the Day of the Week — Dogs 
and ^Mosquitoes, "but the Gold 's all Right " — Romantic Career of 
a Woman — Joins the Stampede from Circle City — Cooking 
for $15 a Day — Facing Claim-Jumpers — Making $12,000 in a Few 
Weeks — Opportunities to Marry Rich Husbands — Gallantry of 
the Men — What a Woman Should Wear — A Queer Trousseau. 

THERE is a better side to the life in Dawson City and 
in the camps along the creeks, such a thing as home 
life amid the rough surroundings, and there are 
brave women there, women who have shared with their hus- 
bands or fathers the hardships of the journey and who pre- 
side over their cabins in the town or at the mines with 
touches of that womanlv grace and skill all the more notice- 
able under such harsh conditions. At first women of this 
variety were rare, but after the rush from outside was fairly 
imder way there was a marked enlargement in home life, 
while many respectable women became engaged in self- 



supporting pursuits, gTeatly increasing the comforts of tlie 
settlement. During the first winter in the camps along 
the creeks there were but two white women, and their ex- 
periences were certainly romantic. 

When Mrs. Lippy arrived at the camp on Eldorado 
Creek, there were no other women there except a few 
squaws, and these Yukon Indians, male or female, are not 
worth counting. Her husband put up the first log cabin 
on the creek, and while it was being erected they lived in a 
tent. All the furniture they had was made out of boxes 
and slabs by Mr. Lippy, and all the food they had at first 
was canned. Mrs. Lippy did no mining herself, but at- 
tended to the domestic duties, which are certainly arduous 
enough in such a place, and she made her husband so com- 
fortable and enabled him to rest so thoroughly that he was 
enabled to accomplish more than most of the miners during 
the cold weather. 

After a time Mrs. Berry came into the camp, and Mrs. 
Lippy had some association with her own sex. Mrs. Berry's 
advent into the Klondike regions was quite romantic, as it 
was in the nature of a bridal trip, Mr. Berry having mar- 
ried her, as already related, in the spring of 1896, before 
setting out for the gold country. 

" The journey over the ice and snow is one that I am not 
likely to forget," said Mrs. Berry, in telling the story of her 
experiences. " The accommodations for a woman were 
very poor, the transportation was slow, the dog teams we had 
were not accustomed to the climate, and altogether we ap- 
peared to be in a bad fix much of the time. . We carried with 
ns our stove and tent, and the latter we pitched every night 
on seme spot where the snow was hard. Our beds were 
made of boughs. My husband was careful to provide every 

304 MRS. berry's adventures 

comfort possible. Just before leaving Juneau I was given a 
largo bear-skin robe, wliicli greatly added to my comfort. 1 
rode nearly all the way. During the journey I was strapped 
to the sled or boat, as the case might be, and while it was 
considerably better than walking, there was always an un- 
certainty about my position which made it very uncom- 
fortable. At first it was very, very cold, but after that I 
became used to it. I want to say just here, that the trip 
over the Juneau route, when the lakes and rivers are broken 
up and filled with floating ice, is particularly hazardous to 
women. They are not nearly so well able as men to stand 
the hardships and dangers incident to such a journey. I do 
not think I would be willing to make the same trip again, 
though if my husband goes back next spring I shall prob- 
ably accompany him. 

" When we arrived at Forty Mile we found that there 
was absolutely nothing to do. ]\Iy husband struck a claim 
and made some money in that way, but it was hardly enough 
to keep us going. In anticipation of just such luck, how- 
ever, we had brought ample supplies with us, and also some 
money, and so did not suffer. Just as we were beginning to 
despair there came the news of the wonderful find on the 
Klondike. I told my husband the best thing we could do 
would be to go to that section immediately. He objected 
at first, but finally yielded to my persuasion and started for 
the diggings. I was left behind, by my own request, to fix 
up the camp and to take all the provisions we had to the new 
discovery. I cannot begin to tell you of the hardships I 
encountered. The river was already beginning to show 
signs of floating ice, and I knew it would be only a short time 
before it would be completely frozen over. Finally, how- 
ever, I got everything in order and started on the Arctic 


for the new Eldorado. About half way up I came across 
my husband and his party, and they joined me on the 

" The roughest experience I had during my entire stay 
in Alaska was at the mining camp fifteen miles from Daw- 
son City. When, having waded and stumbled over the 
trail, I reached the house where I was to spend tlie winter, 
I found it utterly unfit for any woman to live in. There 
was neither floor nor windows, and Mr. Berry had to cut a 
hole in the wall in order to get the stove in. Finally all 
of these difficulties were overcome, and I was fairly com- 
fortable. It was December 6tli when we struck the first 
gold, and it was a happy day for me as well as for my hus- 
band, who had worked so hard to gain an independence. 
Of course, at the time we did not know just what we were 
making, but it was not long before the truth dawned upon 
us that we were in a fair way to win a fortune. All last 
winter I visited the mines, and, as the great chunks of frozen 
earth were dumped on the ground, I busied myself in pick- 
ing out the nuggets. 

" I think that during the season I picked up something 
like ten thousand dollars. I used to turn the clods over, and 
then, with a sharp stick, dig into them as far as I could until 
I came across something that looked like gold. The largest 
nugget I found was worth two hundred and thirty-one dol- 
lars, and it turned out to be one of the best individual prizes 
found in the diggings. I enjoyed good health in spite of the 
hardships, and actually gained twenty-two pounds while in 
Alaska. I attribute this to my taking good care of myself, 
never unnecessarily exposing myself to the weather, though 
I was nearly always around the camp. I liked to be there 
because it was lonesome at the cabin, and then again there 


^vas ahvavs the possibility of finding that which we had come 
so far to secure. 

" I did not mind the hardships very much. Mr. Berry's 
claim was nineteen miles from Dawson, and I walked all the 
way over the ice. It took us two days to get there, and I 
was nearly dead when we arrived. When we came out it 
was spring, and the mud was so deep that I frequently went 
in to my waist, and over my knees at every step. I wore 
rubber boots and short skirts all the time I was there. In 
the winter I wore short skirts, bloomers, fur-lined moc- 
casins to the knee, a fur coat, hood, and mittens. I kept 
house, aud I tell you it's no joke." 

After a housewife has gone over the Chilkoot Pass and 
has shot the rapids, it may be declared a certainty that she 
is made of sterling material, and it was indeed interesting to 
watch the women who were among the new arrivals and to 
hear them tell of their experiences. One July day a man 
and his wife came drifting down the river in a scow and 
landed at Dawson. She was a small body, but there was a 
fire in her black eyes that showed grit and determination, 
and it was pleasing to notice how quickly she accommodated 
herself to circumstances. Lots were then selling at enor- 
mous prices back in the swamp on which Dawson is located, 
and she told her husband they couldn't afford to pay those 
prices yet for such ground. 

Their scow was a large one, and in no time she had their 
goods piled up on one end and the tent set up on the other. 

" Xone of your fancy prices for that house and lot," she 
said as she began to make things comfortable for living. It 
certainly was quite as pleasant as living on one of the swamp 
lost in the summer. They lived there on the bank of the 
river some little time till the husband finally found a loca- 


tion and started to erect a cabin. In about a month she 
was bustling around in her new home putting things to 

" Yes, sir, I can tell you I am pretty glad to get on terra 
firma again," she said, " that is, if you can call this sort of 
ground terra firma. It's an improvement, however. I've 
been living on a boat ever since last March, nearly five 
months. To tell the truth, I'm a little tired of gypsy life, 
though I've stood it pretty well. Yes, our house is larger 
than most of them here — twenty-three feet by sixteen. 
But we have two stoves, and I think we will be able to keep 
it warm next winter. As to furnishing — well, I don't 
know. This is a queer town, isn't it? But the gold's all' 

She had an eye to business, and it had been her inten- 
tion to secure a lot near the center or business portion and 
start a bakery. " Just think of it," she said to her husband, 
" bread is worth fifty cents a loaf, one-pound pies one dollar 
each, just such as I used to make at home. They say I 
could sell a scowload every day. I talked with one woman 
who bakes, and she said the men came in and threw down 
their sacks of gold, and when she took out what she thought 
about the right amount and weighed it, if it went over the 
requisite weight, they would say, ' ISTever mind, madam, let 
it go.' Many times she gets from seventy-five cents to one 
dollar for a loaf of bread. A sack of flour costs six dollars 
here, and it makes forty-five loaves of bread." 

They paid two hundred and fifty dollars for their lot, 
which was some distance back near the banks of the Klon- 
dike. Before they had owned it many days they sold one- 
quarter of it, off the rear, for soventy-fivo dollars, and then 
one-half of the front for one hundred and seventy-five dol- 


lars. As she was too far from the center to make a bakery 
profitable, she thought she wouhl turn lier attention to other 
matters, and finally secured a chance to take care of a couple 
of children. In telling about them she said: 

'' One of them is ten years old and the other is six. 
They are regular little teiTors. I wash them both six times 
a day, and bathe them all over in a tub of water twice a 
week, and then they are ahvays smutty. They are girls 
and as ugly as sin. Their mother is a woman from Juneau. 
Robert says, ' Why don't you wdiale them? ' He says I am 
altogether too easy with them. I have not whipped them 
yet, and I won't. I don't expect to have them long. There 
is a Catholic church, a school, and a hospital building just 
below where we are living, and when they are completed I 
expect the little ones will stay with the Sisters. The Sisters 
are expected here on the next boat from St. Michael, which, 
if there is water enough for it to get up the river, will be 
here in about a month. The girls say they don't want to 
live with the Sisters; that they want to live with me and to 
go to school from here. They lived with the Sisters in 
Juneau, and they say the Sisters are not so good to them as 
I am ; that they make them work, and that they whip them. 
The little ones appear to like me very much. I get one 
hundred dollars a month for taking care of the little terrors, 
and I guess I earn every cent of it, but their mother fur- 
nishes the bedding and a tent for them to sleep in." 

I had found out that this w^oman made wonderfully fine 
bread, and had purchased some occasionally. A little real 
bread is a great delicacy on the Yukon, and while I had 
looked upon myself as quite an expert I could recognize the 
superiority of her light loaves. One day when I went to the 
cabin she had just finished baking. 


" I've baked seven loaves of bread, four pies, and a batch 
of ginger-snaps to-day," she said. " By the way, what day 

" Saturday, I believe, but I'm not sure." 

" I can never tell in this region without looking it up. 
This perpetual daylight, when there is so much to do, gets 
one all mixed up. Never saw such a place to live in in all 
my life. Still, we get along nicely. There are some ad- 
vantages in the country besides the gold. We have been 
having a lot of the most delicious fish — king salmon. 
There are two fishermen who live on the river bank just 
below here, and I guess they must have taken a fancy to me, 
as they send us fish every day. They sell their fish for fifty 
cents a pound, but they don't charge me anything for them. 
Yesterday they gave me ten or twelve pounds, five or six 
dollars' worth, and to-day they gave me another large piece. 
I give them a loaf of bread and a pie once in a while. To- 
day I took them a loaf of bread, a pie, and a lot of ginger- 
snaps. My, but they appear so grateful! I love to 
give to them, for they appear so grateful for such trifles. 
There are two of them — a father and a son. They have a 
lot of dogs, eight large ones and seven small ones. There 
are more dogs to the square yard here, I guess, than in any 
place on earth. We have dog concerts every night. Such 
lugubrious howls as these native dogs give utterance to; 
and the exotics soon strike the key and become initiated. It 
is something fearful. I am starving for vegetables and 
fruit. And the mosquitoes — oh! they are terrible. They 
make life a burden. But the gold's all right." 

One of the most remarkable cases of fortune-making 
by a woman was that of Mrs. Wills, whom T had met at 
Circle City in 1800, where she was baking bread on a 


"^'ukou stove, with the results told in a previous chapter. 
As the Circle City miners congregated at Mrs. Wills's 
bakery for their daily bread, it became one of the news 
centers of the place, and to this is due the fact that she was 
among the first to hear of the rich strike on the Klondike. 
Although she Avas making money at the rate of twenty-five 
dollars a day, it only whetted her appetite for gold, and she 
no sooner heard of the Klondike than she was ready to start. 

It was three hundred long, dreary miles over snow and 
ice to Dawson. Securing a mate for her dog, she closed 
her bakery, and started alone. Two days later she was 
joined by a party of cattlemen, who had heard the wonder- 
ful stories of Klondike gold, and they, too, had caught the 
gold fever. Mrs. Wills would be relieved of the burden of 
her sleds and her dogs cared for if she would act as cook for 
the party. This was a bargain, and it is said that she stood 
the hardships of the journey " like a man." 

She made her location on the Klondike, and filed 
thereon, and at once set a man at work, while she returned 
to Dawson and accepted a position with the Alaska Com- 
mercial Company as head cook at fifteen dollars a day. She 
paid the same amount to the men who worked her claim. 
Thus she w^as able to work the claim and jet employ herself 
in the more congenial occupation. Later she secured a 
stove, this time one with an oven that held four bakepans, 
and again went into the bakery business, and inside of two 
weeks had customers enough at one dollar a loaf to keep the 
oven going twelve hours a day. 

As soon as all the good claims were taken up near Daw- 
son City, then the claim-jumpers began to get in their work. 
Several attempts Avere made to get possession of Mrs. Wills's 
claim, which promised to pan out exceedingly rich, but she 

r.p ^ 


fought the case and held down her claim against all comers. 
Finding that she could not be scared off it, offers to purchase 
were tendered, but Mrs. Wills was mining for what she 
could make, and the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars did not swerve her from her purpose. She expects 
that her claim will pan out twice that amount. Meantime 
she is making a net profit of more than fifty dollars a day in 
her bakery and laundry, notwithstanding the high price of 
flour and the fact that starch costs two hundred and fifty 
dollars a box. She pays an Indian squaw who works for 
her four dollars a day, and for the little log cabin in which 
the work was done she has to pay thirty-five dollars a month. 
Her fuel costs her over five hundred dollars a year, but she 
made money rapidly at this, while those she hired to work 
her mines found the gold rapidly. She made twelve thou- 
sand dollars from them in a few weeks, and she struck the 
richest gravel of any in May, and was making more money 
than ever. She is a brave, entei*prising woman, who has 
battled with poverty all her life, and we were glad she was 
so fortunate at last. People in a mining camp like this are 
not generally so envious of each other's prosperity as they 
sometimes are in ordinary society. 

It has been said that the Klondike offers a great oppor- 
tunity for respectable unmarried women, and it is doubtless 
true. A good woman is at a high premium in that region, 
and so long as mines are rich, and millionaires are turned 
out every season, women who have the courage to brave 
such hardships as a journey to Alaska entails, and are not 
too particular about the culture of the eligible men, may 
marry a fortune. The fact is, however, that most good 
women are particular about the men they marry. But 
there are in the Klondike some as true specimens of man- 


hood as can be found anywliere. They may not appear so 
in their rough surroundings, but there is value in their 
rugged natures. A respectable woman has nothing to fear 
in the way of insult in these mining regions. It may seem 
at times on the trail that all s])irit of gallantry has been left 
behind. Men, as a matter of course, have too much serious 
work on hand in such ordeals to waste much time in 
helping women over boulders and asking if they may have 
the honor of carrying their packages just over the next hill, 
but they never take any mean advantage of their weaker fel- 
low-workers, and they allow full value for the work women 
are better fitted to do than men. The field for cooking alone 
is one of immense opportunity for women, and they are not 
slow to see it. Even though a man is willing to get his 
own meals after a day's hard work, few of them understand 
how to prepare food in a wholesome, palatable way. Good 
nourishing food is what they must have. 

Aside from this there are lodging houses, and the actual 
prospecting and mining, and washing and mending clothes, 
and nursing, and undoubtedly women stand a good chance 
for success. 

There will be plenty of miners who will see that a 
woman is protected. An illustration of this, one of the 
thousands of dramatic incidents of Klondike life, stands 
out significant of the real character of American men, as a 
race. Dissension arose in a party of men and women, after 
which a division occurred, and some of them decided to re- 
turn to their homes. A man and his wife who could not 
agree upon this point parted, and the wife suddenly found 
herself the only woman in a camp with four hundred men, 
without provisions of any sort, and no money. Some one 
suggested that she cook for them, so she started bravely in, 


and tliose men, recognizing this as an isolated case where 
tliey coukl go out of their way a little, made her feel their 
care and protection. Its jnst as natural for men to want to 
be helpful to a woman as it is to breathe, but during the first 
weeks of the Klondike excitement men felt hindered very 
often trying to help women along. They have all they can 
manage to" look out for themselves, and when they found 
women going up there to work independently, and that they 
did not want men to help them, the situation presented 
itself in its true light. 

As the number of women in the city increased, several 
began to turn their attention to dressmaking, which was 
quite a profitable business. Five dollars was charged for 
making a common calico wrapper such as could be put to- 
gether in about three hours. The price for making a plain 
woolen dress was thirty dollars, and the dressmakers had 
to pay nothing for fashion-plates. Anything that looked 
well passed muster. 

Wading is an essential part of a trip in the Klondike, 
especially in the vicinity of the mines, and women should, 
for their own comfort, provide accordingly. The head- 
wear affected by women there consists of close-fitting hats 
or caps, made necessary by the high winds. All clothing is 
worn loosely to facilitate moving about. No corsets are 
worn; instead, a canvas waist has come into general use. 
To this waist are buttoned the skirts (if worn) and the under- 
garments. In winter women generally wear fur hoods and 
parkas. On the feet are worn " muck lucks," a sort of boot 
the foot of which is made of hair seal-skin. 

A woman who had some experience in the Klondike 
says that the venture means " an extra and heroic effort for a 
big prize, and the harvest depends, as all harvests do, on the 


amount of strength and energy put into it. Therefore, if 
she has the courage to make the great plunge with a possible 
fortune at the end, in preference to smaller returns over a 
greater space of time without extreme demands upon her 
health, she will undoubtedly want to equip herself intel- 

"■ First, then, the clothing is to be considered. Starting 
in the early spring, the following articles will be absolutely 
indispensable : 

" Four combination suits, heaviest quality; three pairs 
bloomers; three thick sweaters; three short skirts (water- 
proof cloth); one fur-lined jacket; two pair wristlets; four 
pair woolen gloves; four pairs heaviest woolen blankets; six 
pair woolen stockings ; two pairs rubber boots, one pair snow 
shoes; several yards netting (against the impertinent mos- 
quito later on) ; two woolen night dresses, and don't forget 
dark-blue glasses, vaseline, and glycerine, for exposure to 
the cold mnds and all the roughness of outdoor life will 
play such havoc with hands and faces that much suffering 
can be avoided by applying the last two when retiring into 
blankets. There w'on't be any downy pillows, because 
weary heads soon learn to sleep on bundles. 

" It is much better to carry Avearing-apparel in water- 
proof bags, as they are easier to handle, and boxes are 
heavier and take up too much space. You won't have a 
bit good time — but if all your belongings are not capsized 
— and you are not drowned or otherwise killed, and you get 
to any real Avhere — my! won't you feel it has paid for the 
attempt — that is, if you're a genuine new woman and not a 
mere new lady." 



Spreading Out Over the Wild Country — Stampedes a Daily Occur- 
rence — How they were Started — Enterprise of an Exliausted 
Party — Returning from One Rush Only to Fall in with Another — 
The Astounding Results on Hunker Creek — Sudden Rise of Skoo- 
kum Gulch — How it was Discovered — Kicking Over Boulders 
and Finding Gold — Bench Claims — Strike on Dominion Creek — 
An Old German's Good Luck on Sulphur Creek — Endeavoring to 
Keep it Quiet — The News Leaks Out — Another Great Stampede — 
Joe and I Conclude to See for Ourselves — A Misstep and a Drench- 
ing in Ice Water — Injured and Exhausted — A Blinding Storm — 
"Oh, for a Little Meat" — Joe Starts to Hunt for a Moose — Re- 
turns and Finds Me Helpless — "I Guess I'm Done For" — A 
Long Night and Day — Walking in a Circle — I Revive on Moose 
Broth — Staking a Claim Anywhere — My Last Prospecting Trip. 

WIIEX summer came there were nearly three tliou- 
sancl people in and about Dawson, tlie great 
majority of whom had come in during tlie win- 
ter and spring, and who were eagerly waiting to make a 
fortune. The class was increased when work became slack 
in the mines, owing to the running water, and also began to 
be increased by those from adjoining settlements who had 
been unable to reach the district the season before, and l)y 
the vanguard of that great crowd which was soon to pour 
in over the passes. It is a fact significant of the remotc- 



uess of the country and scarcity of facilities for conimimica- 
tiou and transportation, that while all these scenes of newly- 
discovered millions were being enacted at Dawson, the out- 
side world was pursuing its peaceful way in utter innocence 
of Dawson and its mines. A few letters had found their 
way out, and there were rumors along the Pacific coast of 
the new discoveries, but they were treated in the papers as 
highly-colored tales, and stuck into inconspicuous places in 
mining intelligence. Juneau miners had heard a good deal, 
however, and were soon on their way down the river. 

But, of course, the two creeks that were known had long 
been completely staked. The floating population, im- 
patiently waiting to grasp a fortune, was therefore in a 
state of stampede all summer. The old miners, observing 
the lay of the land and seeing that the Bonanza had other 
" pups " which, while not very inviting to the gold-pros- 
pector, looked fully as much so as the Eldorado had ap- 
peared at first, and seeing also that the Klondike and the In- 
dian River just above had numerous small tributaries, whose 
headwaters seemed to center curiously around a ridge of 
hills, in the center of which was a peak called the Dome, 
had earl}^ begun to spread out over the country and to probe 
the ground under the tundra of the banks. When they 
found something that looked promising, they returned to 
Dawson and applied for a discovery claim. This was hap- 
pening all summer. No one knew the value of the dis- 
covery, for it was impossible to fully know till the winter 
had again frozen up the streams, but it made no difference 
to the ever-increasing crowd of feverish fortune-hunters. 
Stampedes were of daily occurrence, and the bulk of the 
population was therefore kept in a state bordering on 
physical exhaustion. 


Generally, a stampede would start about in this way: 
A man looking in the recorder's book would see that a claim 
had been filed on some new and unheard-of creek. He 
Avould give the tip to a friend and they would start off, but 
the friend would first whisper it to another friend, and in a 
few hours the whole town would know something was hap- 
pening. A crowd would be quickly clambering over rocks 
and struggling through places where there was not even a 

Or, perhaps, some fellow would drift into a saloon with 
a sack of gold, and in the garrulousness of intoxication would 
confide to some one that he had found it on such a creek or 
pup, and away the men would rush. There were many 
curious experiences. One day a party left to go sixty miles 
up the river, but after going about fifty miles they became 
exhausted and turned back. On the way back they killed 
a couple of moose, and each man's share of the proceeds 
was sixty-one dollars and fifty cents. While they were 
gone another stampede took place at about ten o'clock at 
night. Several went up the river and staked claims, know- 
ing nothing as to their value, and came back with no gold, 
only to fall in with the next rush. 

But the result of all these stampedes was to open up a 
much larger gold-bearing territory, which will be heard from 
in the future. One of the first and most promising of these 
discoveries was made by a man by the name of Hunker, 
who gave his name to the creek which flows into the Klon- 
dike about ten miles above the mouth of the Bonanza, and 
the principal tributaries of which are Gold Bottom and 
Last Chance creeks. Hunker made his discovery late in 
the spring, and on account of the abundance of water and 
the marshy character of the soil little could be done at once 


in (.Irifting, but the rich results simply astounded those who 
had become used to that sort of thing. The pay-streak was 
measured and found to be two hundred feet wide. ]\Iany 
believed that the creek would surpass Eldorado. A half 
interest in one claim was sold for thirty thousand dollars. 
On Gold Bottom and Last Chance, pans of from twenty-five 
cents to twenty dollars were reported near the surface. 
Bear Creek, which flows into the Klondike between Hunker 
and Bonanza creeks, Avas also early prospected and staked 
out, yielding some fine returns near the surface. Xuggets 
the size of peas were brought down to Dawson from its 
banks and served to increase the excitement of the new- 

The sudden rise of Skookum Gulch was one of the queer 
incidents of the unfolding of this marvelous territory. It 
enters Bonanza near Cormack's discovery claim, but in the 
first rush it was passed by as worthy of no attention. A 
man who had for several years been working a claim on 
American Creek started for the Klondike as soon as the 
news reached him, traveling on the ice with a dog team, the 
thermometer ranging about sixty below. Bonanza and El- 
dorado were all staked then, and in March, after bringing 
up his outfit, he formed a partnership and secured a lay on 
Cormack's claim. While working there they located 
claims Xos. 1 and 2 on Skookum Gulch,' near by, and at odd 
times worked the ground. About the middle of April they 
struck a pay-streak at a depth of about four feet, and gave 
up their lay at Cormack's, where they had cleaned up about 
seven thousand dollars, and went to work on their Skookum 
claims. After drifting four days they washed out two thou- 
sand eight hundred dollars of some of the coarsest gold that 
had been found anywhere in the district. Of course, there 


was another stampede. The two discoverers worked away 
till July, cleaning np about forty thousand dollars in the 
four months. Then they sold out for a big figure and went 

But there were creek claims, that is, claims staked along 
the creek from rim-rock to rim-rock. The creek was all 
located by July, and some of the claims had been deserted, 
as the surface indications were not extra, and because of the 
constant rush for other new creeks, particularly on other 
Klondike streams. No one had thought of bench claims, 
that is, claims up on the side of the hills. 

Conditions in Alaska and the ISTorthwest Territory are 
so very different from those prevailing in the placer mining 
regions of California and other countries, that the ex- 
perience and knowledge of the average old miner, gained 
after years of toil and hardship, sometimes only mislead 

This was illustrated in the discovery of bench claims on 
Skookum Gulch, when a tenderfoot kicked over a boulder 
and found gold nuggets sticking up under the sod. The 
wildest excitement prevailed. 

It was found that while many of the old prospectors had 
searched long and faithfully for the nuggets in the creek 
bed and near the center of the stream, they had entirely 
overlooked the bench claims, which were found to be very 
rich. Some of the claims on the creek bed were carefully 
gone over, but did not prove very good. Miners sunk shafts 
to bed-rock and toiled night and day for the yellow metal, 
which lay so plentifully a few rods further up the hill away 
from the stream. But the saying that gold is where you 
find it was again exemplified. Thousands of people in the 
last year had walked over the location and never thought of 


looking for gold there. Experienced miners would have 
laughed at a man as a fool for thinking that gold might be 
there. Yet in a few weeks about four hundred bench 
claims were staked out. 

Boulders were turned over, and there, lying exposed 
on the gravel, was coarse gold. The moss was about twelve 
inches thick, and beneath it in one day two men picked up 
eight hundred dollars in nuggets. It was difficult to offer 
a theory of how the gold got there. It was worn but little, 
and just below^ in the gulch some rich specimens of float were 
found. Some good miners thought it might be only the 
edge of a wonderful pay-streak of quartz, as some quartz 
was found adhering to the gold. When one old miner saw 
what was being picked up under the moss, he said: 

" Who'd ever thought of finding gold on the surface of 
such a looking mountain as that. If science went for any- 
thing, there wouldn't be an ounce of gold in the whole 
mountain. 'No, sir, I'm ready to confess that I don't know 
anything about placer mining, and I've been at it, off and on, 
for years. These discoveries have been too much for me." 

The excitement was intense. Hundreds of ounces were 
taken out of the rockers by the dazed miners. In half a 
day two men picked out with a rocker five hundred and 
eighty-five dollars in coarse gold. 

Attention was early directed to the creeks of the Indian 
Eiver district whose headwaters lay in the same range of 
hills in which the rich streams of the Klondike took their 
rise. Various stampedes to Sulphur, Dominion, and Quartz 
creeks took place, and by September there was not a claim 
to be had, except at large prices, on any of these streams. 
The strike on Dominion Creek was made on June 10th by a 
man who had been on the Yukon for years, and the result 


was one of the wildest stampedes of the year. The miners 
brought back many favorable reports and some gold dust. 
Pans running as high as two dollars and fifty cents were 
found long before bed-rock was reached. The discovery 
claim was located about three miles from the head of the 
creek, which was soon staked for its entire length of twenty 

Some of those who arrived too late to secure claims here 
started to return to Dawson, and instead of returning by the 
Indian Kiver went over the hills towards the Yukon. On 
the 20th one of the party came to what is now known as 
Sulphur Creek, at a point about seven miles from the hill 
that separates it from Hunker Creek, which flows into the 
Klondike. They found good prospects, and, going into a 
partnership arrangement, sunk a shaft. They worked 
quietly without letting any one know, but had not pro- 
ceeded far before they found pans running as high as five 
dollars. Then they staked out claims for themselves and 
went to Dawson to record them. They endeavored to keep 
it quiet, but in August it leaked out, and there w^as another 
stampede, over five hundred men crossing the rough moun- 
tain between Eldorado and Dominion creeks. 

They had not been working long before pans running 
over thirty dollars were found not far below tlie surface. 
Two men took out three hundred dollars one day in simply 
prospecting their claims. The formation seemed to be 
much like that of Eldorado Creek, which bears the same 
relation to Bonanza that Sulphur docs to Dominion, and 
the process which brought gold into one must have brought 
it into the other. As these streams flowed into the Indian 
River they were in another mining district, and so those 
having claims on the Klondike streams were at liberty to 


stake on Dominion and Sulpliur. The excitement was in- 
tense and continued for some time, as new strikes were con- 
stantly reported. The old German who located the dis- 
covery took out thirty dollars to the pan, and in most places 
the water on the creek was not deep, so that the claims could 
be worked easier than those on the Klondike. 

But many of the locators either did jiot have energy to 
sink their prospect holes, or were too restless on account of 
the daily stampedes to other creeks to remain, and so it 
began to be rumored about that Sulphur Creek was of no 
value. A few of the first locators, however, staid by it, and 
they were richly rewarded. When the large pans began to 
be taken out, another stampede occurred. Claims that had 
been abandoned were staked by other parties and soon could 
hardly be bought at any price. 

About forty men rushed out on this forty-mile tramp, 
and many of the newcoiuers were so excited and in such 
haste to find a hole from which they could take gold that 
they rushed oif without taking their blankets or enough to 
eat. Indeed, this was a feature of all these stampedes, and 
many came near losing their lives, and, doubtless, would 
have done so but for the kindness of more provident pros- 

Indeed, the dangers incuiTed in these wild scrambles 
over the mountains could not be altogether avoided by those 
who were careful enough to make ample provisions for their 
trip. Joe and I had a rather narrow escape ourselves dur- 
ing the fall excitement over the tributaries of Dominion 
Creek. We had not, as a rule, indulged in the stampedes, 
for we were well aware of their dangers and uncertainties, 
and aware also that claims were being staked constantly by 
those who immediately rushed off to another localit}', so that 


if at any time actual prospects should reveal any surpassing 
richness in the new discoveries it would be time enough to 
rush in and secure some of the deserted claims. But when 
the fall excitement over Sulphur Creek occurred we con- 
cluded to go over the hills and prospect a little thereabout 
for ourselves. We were at the camp at that time, and dur- 
ing the rush men had dropped their picks and run from 
wiiidlasses to hurry over to the Indian River district. Joe 
and I took our time and put in our packs a good supply of 
beans and blankets. 

I had not been feeling well for several days, ha\dng 
been weak and sometimes a little feverish. I had at- 
tributed it to drinking poor water and to the everlasting 
monotony of diet at the camp, but I felt better when we 
started, and thought little of it while we plodded along over 
the rough hillsides through the snow. All this country is 
so rugged that the eye is startled at surveying it from some 
commanding peak. Hill crowding hill, mountain jostling 
mountain, on and on they sweep to the uttermost reach of 
the vision. 

Reaching wliat we took to be the upper part of Sulphur 
Creek, we prospected through that region and then started 
to work our way up a gulch which looked as promising as 
anything could in that locality. I Avas struggling along 
over a high bluff of rocks along by the bed of the stream, 
when I made a misstep and rolled, pack and all, over the 
edge of the rocks, striking on a bit of thin ice at the bottom. 
It gave way and let me into the ice-cold water. Joe was 
ahead and did not miss me till I shouted. But before he 
could make his way to the bed of the stream I had pulled 
myself out, dripping and shivering. My aid<lc was slightly 
sprained, but I minded that less than the cold. We finally 


worked oiir way up to a little eluiup of spruces, where I 
dropped down exhausted and half frozen. 

Joe liad a fire going in a short time and made me a cup 
of strong tea, but it did little good, and 1 grew worse and 
worse. I was terribly w^eak, but abhorred the sight of beans, 
which Joe placed over the fire in the hopes of reviving my 
strength. Oh, for a little meat! I thought. 

The day before we had seen several moose tracks and 
had even caught a glimpse of two or three too far away on 
the hills to shoot, and, encumbered as we were, w^e did not 
take the trouble to follow them. As I lay there on a blanket 
on the snow I felt as if I would give all the Klondike soil I 
possessed for a bit of moose steak. 

" Joe," I said, '' I will watch the beans. Take the rifle 
and see if you cannot find a moose. I am dying for meat." 

He left me, working his way off up the gulch, and I lay 
there watching the fire play about the kettle of beans. The 
wind shifted and blew the smoke straight towards me, but I 
was too weak to move or to mind such a trifle. Then it grew 
dark and began to snow^, and I rapidly grew weaker and 
sicker. The fire began to work into fantastic shapes and 
seemed to dance about in the snow, then grow dim, then 
blaze up in flaming fierceness, — then all was dark. 

The next I knew I felt a queer sensation in one of my 
hands ; then I recognized Joe's voice. He was slapping my 
right hand and shouting in my ears. Finally I opened my 
eyes. It was dark. The fire was out. The beans were 
])unit up. It was snowing frightfully and the wind was 
sweeping through the gulch with a dreadful roar, which fell 
on my benumbed ears like a wail of despair. 

" Come, come, this'll never do," I heard Joe say. " TTe 
must get out of this." 


I tried to raise myself, but fell back helpless. My ankle 
began to pain me terribly, and then everything began to 
swim before my dull eyes again. 

" No use, Joe," I said, feebly, " I guess I'm done for." 

Having started another fire, he soon brought me a big 
cup of hot strong tea and held it while I drank it slowly off. 
I fell back and thought I felt better. Then he an-anged 
some boughs over my head and threw a blanket over them 
to protect me from the wind. Dragging more poles down 
the hill, he heaped them on the fire, which roared and hissed 
almost at my feet. The snow was flying so thick that it 
was impossible to see but a little way before us. 

'' I must find a sled somewhere," said Joe, wdien he had 
made these preparations, and soon I saw him disappear again 
in the blinding snow. Then I fell into a sort of stupor. 

How like a dreadful panorama my short career passed 
before me as I lay there during those long dark hours. 
Was this the end? There was a comfortable little fortune 
stacked away in our tent over in the camp, and here I was 
dying, as I thought, just because of a little misstep. On 
and on dragged the hours, and Joe did not return. The 
daylight broke, and still he did not come. I had become 
very faint and was almost too weak to move a muscle. The 
fire was dying into embers, and it grew very cold, though it 
had ceased to snow with so much fury. 

After a long time, how long I could not tell, I heard 
shouting, and, making a great effort, raised my head out of 
the snow and feebly responded. In a few minutes I saw a 
dark form coming through the snow, and- then I recognized 
Joe running rapidly towards me and pulling a sled. 

" Xow you'll be all right, my boy," he said. " I'm 
mighty glad to find you alive." 


Then he told me the story of his search. It seems he 
had started out in the storm for the purpose of making his 
way down to Sulphur Creek far enough to find some miners 
M'itli a sled. He set off, as he thought, in the right direc- 
tion and had a hard tramp over the hills in the dark and in 
the face of the blinding stonn. After walking till about 
three o'clock in the morning he saw a light and hastened 
forward in the hope of finding a camp of miners. What 
was his surprise upon coming up to the fire to find it the 
same one he had built a few hours before! I was uncon- 

He threw some more wood on and started out again. 
At last he came to a sled track, and, after following it for 
nearly six miles, came upon two men who had half a moose 
on a sled. In my extremity Joe had forgotten to eat any- 
thing and was nearly famished when he came upon the 
miners. They hurriedly cooked him some meat, and he 
told them of my danger. They told him to take the sled, 
and, cutting off a piece of moose meat, strapped it on, and 
Joe started back for me, running much of the way. He had 
experienced a little difficulty in finding me, and about given 
me up for dead, when he heard my feeble response to one of 
his cries. 

He told me this while he hurriedly built another fire, 
and put the moose in a kettle for a stew. That stew braced 
me up at once. Nothing will ever taste so good again as 
did that steaming moose broth. During the day I began 
to regain my strength, and we started down the creek to find 
the two benefactors. At first Joe insisted upon my riding, 
and he tugged away like a hero over the rough places, but 
I began to feel better, and the last part of the way hobbled 
along fairly well, resting occasionally. 


" We ought to stake a claim somewhere after going 
through all this," I said to Joe while we were taking our first 
rest near the mouth of the gulch, which had not yet been 
staked. We had built a fire and were about to take a little 

" Well, we might as well stake here as anywhere," he re- 
plied. " ISTever mind the indications. They don't count 
in this country. The only thing to do is to stake anywhere 
and trust to luck. It certainly looks better here than on 

But we finally Avorked our way down the creek and took 
the first available claim, and after a few days went back to 
our camp. That was the last prospecting trip we made in 
the Klondike. 



Midnight Rush to Montana Creek — Staking by Torchlight — A Pugil- 
ist on Hand — Locaters Rested after Their Journey — Their Stakes 
Stealthily Removed and Others Substituted — The First to Record 
Takes the Claim — Great Stampede to All Gold Creek — The 
Rush for Bryant Creek — Intended to be Named for William J. Bryan 
— Result of the Slip of the Pen — Neglecting to Record for Fear 
Something Better Would be Found — Tenderfeet Froz^en Out — 
Waiting Three Days to Reach the Gold Commissioner — The 
Country Staked for a Hundred Miles Around — Frauds Perpe- 
trated — Impossibility for the Officers to Measure Claims during 
the Wild Stampedes — Wild Race down the Frozen Yukon to 
Buy a Claim — Old Miners' Belief in Stewart River — Gold Found 
Everywhere — Difficulties of Prospecting on the Stewart — Some 
of the Gold-Bearing Creeks Which May Be Heard From — In the 
Same Belt as the Klondike. 

NO sooner had the exhausted gold-seekers returned 
to Dawson from the rush to Sulphur Creek than 
another took place to Montana Creek, a little 
stream eighteen miles long entering the Yukon on the east 
side about eight miles south of Dawson and heading up 
towards Eldorado. It was a dark and stormy night, the 
air was filled with a light snow, but there was the greatest 
excitement, especially among the new arrivals. About two 
hundred and fifty men joined in the rush, many of them 



going at two o'clock in the morning. Some tumbled into 
boats and poled up the river against the strong current, and 
others clambered over the mountain and gulches. Those 
first on the creek built fires, and by torchlight measured off 
their claims and planted their stakes. A pugilist from the 
Pacific coast was the second man to locate. By midnight 
seven claims were staked off, and then the rush kept pouring 
in till the whole creek was staked and some were left with- 
out places to stake. When the men had finished their sprint 
over the trail or their difficult trip up the river, they were 
cold and hungry, and so they camped as well as they could 
somewhere on the creek before taking their way back. 
Some of the late arrivals, noticing this delay, stealthily re- 
moved stakes and put up their own. Then they rushed 
back to the recording office in Dawson, and, of course, were 
there long before the original claimants. When the latter 
arrived there was naturally considerable loud talk and some 
threats. There was nothing to do, however, but to accept 
the situation, for the first man who records takes the ground, 
unless there is a long litigation, Avhich might bring no satis- 
faction. It is as important to be the first to reach the re- 
corder's office as it is to be the first to locate a claim. 

The rush to All Gold Creek was the largest of the sea- 
son. At least five hundred men participated in that and 
endured the greatest hardships. The stampede to Bryant 
Creek, which is about nine miles up the Yukon from Daw- 
son, took place early in September, The stream is about 
twenty -five miles in length, and rises within a few rods of one 
of tlie gulches which opens into Eldorado, whose waters 
flow in a different direction. Many of the claims were 
located at midnight. J. II. Howell of Seattle was the 
original discoverer of gold on tliis creek, and, desiring to 


honor an old sclioolmate and friend, William J. Bryan, tlie 
late Democratic candidate for President, he named it Bryan 
Creek, bnt the Canadian recording ofHcer, having apparently 
never heard of the jSTebraska orator, with an npward stroke 
of the pen added the letter "• t " to the word, and thns Mr. 
Bryan was deprived of another honor. 

There were many instances of the shifting tide of fortune 
in the Klondike creeks. All Gold Creek had been located 
early in the summer, and there was the usual stampede 
and failure on the part of the indolent or restless to find the 
gold. Later, it was more thoroughly prospected, and gave 
evidences of being as rich as some of the more famous 

Late in October news was brought to Dawson that a 
prospecting party had made a rich strike on a little creek 
flowing into the Yukon about two miles above. It was 
named Dion Creek, from one of the leaders of the party, 
and many of the late newcomers managed to secure claims 
on it. The gold was found about two and a half miles up, 
and it was reported that the pay-streak was about five feet 
thick on top of bed-rock. Being close to Dawson, and on 
the Yukon, it was especially attractive, as it could be worked 
cheaper. Very little prospecting was done on it, however, 
as most of those who staked left to attend to other matters, 
so that it was an impossibility to judge of its richness with 
any degree of accuracy. Single pans of dirt worth as high 
as fifteen dollars were found, and the creek was soon staked 
for its whole length. 

In the latter part of December great excitement was 
again aroused by new strikes on Dominion Creek. Those 
who were at work there were slowly thawing out the ground, 
and it was reported that on Iso. 19 below Discovery the 


owners had sampled gravel at a depth of six feet, or about 
two feet from bed-rock, and had taken out pans averaging 
five dollars each. As this was better than had been found 
on Bonanza and Eldorado at that depth, the claims of the 
Dominion Creek district at once jumped to an enormous 
price. It was said that seventeen thousand dollars was re- 
fused for one claim on Sulphur creek, where, two months 
before, claims could have been bought for two thousand five 
hundred dollars. The gold was of good quality, even bet- 
ter than that of Bonanza and Eldorado. 

Calder Creek, which heads up just across the divide 
from Eldorado, and runs into Quartz Creek in the Indian 
River district, was discovered in the latter part of October, 
and promised w^ell. In November not less than fifteen 
claims were being worked on it, the miners having sledded 
across from Eldorado. 

During these stampedes some very queer cases hap- 
pened. Some miners would participate in every rush and 
stake out claims on the new creeks, but they delayed in 
recording them because they could have but one in the dis- 
trict, and every one was living in the constant expectation 
that something even better would turn up. In this way 
some had staked a dozen different locations without record- 
ing any of them. The result was that often a prospector 
came along one of the creeks with enterprise to sink a hole, 
and would find good pay-dirt. Tie would at once record the 
claim, and the original staker would be '' left." 

During the last week in August a mad rush was made 
to Moosehide Creek, about eight miles north of Dawson, 
where a prospect of seventy-five cents to the pan was re- 
ported. A number of tenderfect were fortunate enough to 
secure good locations, but they forgot, after staking their 


claims, to have them recorded. Their neglect soon became 
kno^vn in Dawson, and another rush took place, resulting in 
the freezing out of the original tenderfeet. 

The difficulty in determining the richness of any new dis- 
trict lies in the fact that it is impossible to go to bed-rock in 
the summer. The banks along the creeks are marshy, and 
in many places it seems necessary to sink the shaft in the 
very bed of the creek, so that no prospecting for real values 
can be done till winter sets in. 

Some idea of tlie uncertain character of prospecting may 
be gained from the fact that Victoria Creek, a tributary of 
the Bonanza, located in the fall of 1896 when the first rush 
was made, and practically deserted, w^as again prospected, 
and in June came reports of big strikes on it. In a short 
time claims were selling at good figures, but no one seemed 
to know whether they were as rich as reported. The danger 
that those who had claims on creeks which did not promise 
well would organize stampedes so as to sell off their claims to 
hungry newcomei-s, of course, always existed. 

As a natural result of all these stampedes and strikes, 
the office of the gold commissioner was besieged con- 
tinually by men wishing to file claims. At some of the 
busiest times men were compelled to keep their places in 
line for three days before they could ,get to the commis- 
sioner's desk. Sometimes the 'thermometer stood forty 

"^Hien the people began to pour into Dawson in the 
spring of 1897 the furtherest claim staked was not more 
than twenty miles away. But by the end of the year the 
country w^as staked for a hundred miles about, and pros- 
pectors were Avandering in the mountains further away 
than that. The tenderfeet kept on locating dozens of creeks 


further and further away, till finally we gave up trying to 
keep track of them, or even to remember their names. The 
gold commissioner has had a difficult undertaking with so 
many new men, for there seemed to be a lot who came for 
the purpose of locating all the claims they could, and after 
winter set in again they carried out their purpose, though 
with many hardships and privations. 

The distance to these new creeks was always great, the 
weather intensely cold, and the stampeders in nearly 
every case were forced to break trail through two feet of 
snow. Under these conditions it was impossible for the 
gold commissioner to prevent stampeders from staking an 
unlimited number of claims for friends and acquaintances, 
who afterwards recorded them in Dawson, after first swear- 
ing that they personallj^ staked the claims and found gold 
prospects upon them. On Rosebud Creek, the scene of one 
of the winter excitements, two men staked twenty claims 
each. A man was arrested for staking two claims on 
Hunker Creek, and a jeweler in Dawson forfeited his min- 
ing rights, together with the titles to four claims, for record- 
ing a claim that had been staked for him by a stampeder. 

The gold commissioner received information that many 
stampeders had staked and recorded more than one claim in 
each district. Under the existing laws, each individual 
can record but one claim in a district. Owing to the 
pressure of business at the commissioner's office it was im- 
possible to thoroughly identify each applicant for a mining 
claim, and this made frauds possible. 

Early in December there started from Dawson an ex- 
citing race for a fortune, perhaps the longest and most 
unique that was ever recorded in the history of any mining 
camp in the world. Two dog teams hurriedly left Dawson 


and went flyiiig down the river over an unbroken trail of ice 
to Circle City, a distance of over three hundred miles to the 
rim of the Arctic Circle. 

Fred Trump owned a half interest in claim 'No. 4G below 
discovery on Hunker Creek. Like many others, when pro- 
visions were scarce, he was compelled to leave for Fort 
Yukon, but he got only as far as Circle City. There was 
practically no grub to be had, and he was without funds, and 
repeatedly tried to sell the property for two thousand dollars. 
Shortly after his departure from Dawson, pay-gravel run- 
ning five dollars to the pan was struck on the claim in which 
he was interested. An offer of fifty thousand dollars for 
the claim was declined, and other properties adjoining be- 
came almost equally valuable. 

Captain Guiger came up from Circle City on December 
4th and said that Trump was vainly trying to sell his half 
interest in the claim for two thousand dollars. That night 
at ten o'clock a well-equipped dog team started out over the 
ribbon of broken ice to Circle City with orders and gold 
dust to purchase the claim at any price under twenty-five 
thousand dollars. At four o'clock the next morning a 
second team followed in hot pursuit, and Dawson was left 
to wonder what the result of the race would be. When the 
ice goes out the world may know. 

It was the opinion of many old miners late in 1897 that 
in a few years the headquarters of the gold-mining on the 
upper Yukon would be on the Stewart River. During the 
latter part of the season many had worked their way up the 
river and its tributaries, and from time to time came re- 
ports of wonderfully rich finds. It was, of course, too far 
away to be verified, and too great a distance for a large 
stampede, but several small parties left Dawson for the 


river, and as they did not return disgusted, as the stani- 
peders so often did, the fact was generally regarded as con- 
clusive that they were finding gold in large quantities. It 
was calculated that as many as two hundred and fifty were 
wintering on the streams and its creeks, and there is cer- 
tainly room there for many thousand. 

Although the bars of the Stewart Eiver had been suc- 
cessfully worked for ten years, there had been no real pros- 
pecting done on the many important tributaries till last 
year. Everywhere that the explorers and scattering pros- 
pectors have gone on the Stewart and its branches gold has 
been found. On many creeks the prospects were extra 
good. Several things have conspired to leave this field 
practically untouched. The question of getting supplies 
in is a very serious one. At the same time, the few hundred 
men who have been on the Yukon for several years have 
found sufficiently attractive diggings nearer to the older 
district and closer to the supply bases. The Indians also 
have a fear of the natives of the headwaters, and cannot be 
prevailed to go up the river a great distance. Trom 
the mouth of Stewart River to Mount Jesus on the north 
fork the distance is estimated at four hundred and fifty 
miles, and to the head of this fork in the vicinity of five hun- 
dred miles in all. The south fork is practically unexplored, 
only one or two parties having been on it, and then not for 
a sufiicient distance to determine its character or length. 
The prospectors and those who have been on the river say 
that it carries a larger body of water than Polly River, and 
is beyond doubt the second largest feeder of the Yukon. 

The first gold discoveries there were made in 1885 on 
bars within about one hundred miles from the month. 
These were rich. During the fall, in less tlian fifty days 


time, as high as six thousand dollars to the man was rocked 
out. In 1886 fully a hundred men were working on the 
river bars with good success. Some went up the north fork 
nearly to its head. Each succeeding season the bars have 
been worked until they failed to pay the high wages. 

The Stewart empties into the Yukon about seventy 
miles above the mouth of the Klondike. From its mouth to 
the forks is about two hundred and seventy miles, and the 
north fork extends some two hundred and fifty miles further 
on. A trifle over two hundred miles from its mouth the 
Frazer Falls make an insurmountable bar to possible steam- 
boat navigation. They make a fall of thirty feet in a dis- 
tance of one hundred and fifty feet, and are not over 
seventy-five feet in width. Here a portage of about half a 
mile must be made. From there on rapids are encountered 
for about six miles. But these can be poled and lined over 
without great difficulty. 

Among the tributaries upon which gold has now been 
found is Kosebud Creek, about forty miles up on the south 
bank. Xo prospecting has been done to any extent. Lake 
Creek, about sixty-five miles up, has shown gold on its bars, 
but no work has been done. lIcQuesten River is much 
larger than any of these creeks, and several good bars have 
been worked on it, some of them paying as high as fifty dol- 
lars per day with rockers. Some work has been done on the 
side creeks emptying into the McQuesten. The McQuesten 
is supposed to head close to Beaver River, which is the 
largest branch of the north fork of the Stewart. Forty 
miles further up on the south side is Crooked Creek, upon 
which gold has been found in small quantities, but only sur- 
face work has been done on it. Mayo Creek comes in on 
the northern bank about forty miles above Crooked Creek. 


About six miles up there is a canon which extends for six 
miles, and through which it is impossible to take a boat. 
Two boats were carried around it in 1894, and the stream 
was traversed for about seventy-five miles. More or less 
gold was found on the bars all along. In the caiion coarse 
gold was found in several places. As high as ten cents a 
pan was found on the surface. 

Much of the Stewart Eiver lies in the same belt as the 
gold-bearing regions of the Klondike, and that there is gold 
there cannot be doubted. The difficulty is in getting to it. 
It is necessary to take a full year's outfit to prospect on the 
upper waters. Owing to the distance prospectors have had 
to spend the best part of their time in bringing up their out- 
fits. By the time a man has poled from Forty Mile or 
Dawson up to the mouth of the river, and from there a hun- 
dred miles to the McQuesten, the summer season is past, 
and he must have winter provisions or hurry back. Miners 
have not felt that they could afford to do this so long as 
there were good paying mines near Forty Mile on the Klon- 
dike, and the recent prospects on the stream come from 
those who have been led by the wonderful Klondike placers 
to look more carefully into all this region. To the old 
miner, acquainted with the general rules of indications of 
gold, the Stewart would look much more promising than 
the Klondike, but it is unsafe to apply to Alaska any rules 
that hold elsewhere in the world. It is a queer country, 
and Avhen the thousands who have now rushed in have 
poked around in the hills for a time we shall know a great 
many new things — that is, if the peoplp who are doing the 
poking do not die in the attempt. 

These gold fields can be developed but slowly. Ten 
thousand men can come here and be lost in the great ter- 


ritorj wlicn they scatter to prospect. A few of them will 
strike a mine and become rich. When they do strike pay- 
dirt their fortunes will be made. In years to come, after 
an awful sacrifice of human life and energy, when the treas- 
ures of this great land are located, its wealth will be some- 
thing beyond our present comprehension. 



Attention Paid the Yukon District by Canadian Government after 
Gold Discoveries — Concerned Over Loss of Revenue — Detach- 
ment of Police Sent In — When the Organization vpas Formed — 
Its Principal Features — Officers and Constables — The Yukon 
Territory — Powers of the Gold Commissioner — His Word Final 
in All Cases as to Claims — Experience of a Seattle Man — How a 
Double Sale was Quickly Untangled — Government Rights over 
the Yukon Region — The Proposed Royalty — Indignation of the 
Miners — A Meeting and a Protest — Possibilities of Trouble — 
Uncertainty of the Mails — Difficulties of a Carrier — Mail Matter 
Taken by Returning Miners and Thrown Away on the Trail — A 
Matter of Life or Death. 

THE Klondike region, being in the Xorthwest Ter- 
ritory, is subject to the laws of Canada, but it was 
not till after pioneers from the United States began 
to find gold about the boundary line that the Ottawa govern- 
ment paid much attention to the country. The hardy 
miners who first prospected up and down the streams, suf- 
fering great hardships, had secured their supplies from trad- 
ing companies navigating the Yukon, and when, by 1894, 
it began to appear that considerable gold was being found, 
and that much merchandise was being taken into the Xorth- 



west Territory free of duty, the Ottawa government thouglit 
" that the time had arrived to make more efficient provision 
for the maintenance of order, the enforcement of the laws, 
and the administration of justice in the Yukon country, 
especially in that section of it in which placer-mining for 
gold is being prosecuted upon such an extensive scale." 

It was evident that the Dominion government viewed 
with considerable concern the loss of revenue or duty upon 
the provisions which were taken to the pioneers with so 
much difficulty and expense. Accordingly, a detachment 
of twenty members of the mounted police force was detailed 
for service along the upper Yukon. The officer in com- 
mand, Inspector Constantine, in addition to the magisterial 
duties which he was required to perform, was authorized 
to represent, when necessary, all the departments of the 
Canadian government having interests in that region. His 
instructions particularly authorized him to perform the 
duties of Dominion land agent, ^collector of customs, and 
collector of inland revenue. Later, Mr. Thomas Fawoett 
was appointed gold commissioner, surveyor, and general 
agent of the Minister of the Interior for the district. It 
was thus, after Americans in the course of their difficult 
and generally unremunerative prospecting throughout the 
region had found gold, that the Canadian officials awoke 
to the necessity of sending in the machinery of the govern- 

Whatever may have been the motive of the Canadian 
government in sending in agents to the new district, it must 
be said to her credit that she has sent good ones, and that 
the supervision of the mounted police has given the people 
of the Klondike a sense of security which is not nsually en- 
joyed in new raining camps, especialh' when so far removed 


from the centers of civilization. Their scarlet nniform is 
the symbol of law and order in the Northwest. 

The force was organized when Alexander Mackenzie 
was Premier, and was one of Sir John Macdonald's inspira- 
tions. After his return to power in 1878 it always re- 
mained under his own eye. The nucleus of the force was 
got together at Manitoba in 1873. It originally numbered 
only three hundred, but by its coolness and pluck at critical 
periods it accomplished much by reducing the Indians and 
lawless whisky traders to a stat>e of order. The police built 
posts and protected white settlers, and the surveyors who 
had already began parcelling out the country and exploring 
the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1877 
nearly the whole of the little force was concentrated on the 
southwesteni frontier to watch and check the six thousand 
Sioux wdio sought refuge in Canada after their defeat and 
massacre of Custer and his command on the Little Big 

It was through the efforts of the mounted police that 
the Sioux were finally induced to surrender peacefully to 
the United States authorities in 1880 to 1881. After the 
outbreak of the half-breeds under Louis Riel in 1885, the 
force was increased to one thousand men, their present 

Like the Eoyal Irish Constabulary, on which it was 
modelled, the mounted police is, in the eye of the law, a 
purely civil body. Its officers are magistrates, the men are 
constables. But so far as circumstances will allow, its or- 
ganization, internal economy, and drill are those of a cavalry 
regiment, and when on active service in a military capacity 
the officers have army rank. The afi'airs of the force are 
managed by a distinct department of the Canadian govoru- 


incnt, under the supervision of a cabinet minister. The 
executive command is held by an officer styled the commis- 
sioner and ranking as lieutenant-colonel. The assistant 
commissioner ranks as a major, and, after three years ser- 
vice, as a lieutenant-colonel. Ten superintendents with 
captain's rank command the divisions, with about thirty-five 
inspectors as subalterns who correspond to lieutenants. 
The medical staff consists of a surgeon, five assistant sur- 
geons, and two veterinary surgeons. The non-commis- 
sioned officers are as in our army, while the troopers are 
called constables. 

The rank and file are not excelled by any picked corps 
in any service. A recruit must be between twenty-two and 
forty-five years old, of good character, able to read and to 
write English or French, active, well built, and of sound 
constitution. Their physique is very fine, the average of 
the whole thousand being five feet nine and a half inches in 
height, and thirty-eight and a half inches around the chest. 

There has always been an unusual proportion of men of 
good family and of education in the service. Lots of young 
Englishmen who came out to try their hand at farming in 
the far west have drifted into the police, as bave also well- 
connected Canadians. Waifs and strays from ever^'^where, 
and of every calling, are to be found in the ranks. The roll- 
call would show defaulters if no man answered to any name 
but his own. There is at least one lord in the force, and 
many university graduates. As a rule they are men who 
get along well with the miners. They experience much 
the same hardships in winter, and they like to see fair play, 
but they are stern in camming out the law of the land. 

The Yukon Territory, so designated by Canada for the 
purpose of government, is about one-half as large as Alaska, 


and extends from British Columbia on the south to the 
Arctic Ocean on the north, and from the one hundred and 
sixty-first meridian on the west to the mountains eastward 
separating the watershed of the Mackenzie from that of the 
Yukon. The chief official is known as the Commissioner 
of the Ten-itory, and all the officials, with the exception of 
the judge of the court, may be suspended by him for cause. 
The police is under his orders, and he is given ample author- 
ity to meet any emergency that may arise without waiting 
to hear from Ottawa. The judge is sent to administer the 
ordinary laws of the territory. Besides the gold commis- 
sioner there is a registrar of the land district, a lawyer, 
whose duties combine the clerkship of the court and the 
registration of titles, four land surveyors acting under the 
gold commissioner, and a number of custom offieere sta- 
tioned at various points along the line of entry into the 
district. The mounted police force on the Yukon was but 
a hundred at first, but has been increased to two hundred 
and fifty, stationed along the trails and at Yukon centers. 

But a small part of the machinery of government was 
on hand during the first year of the Klondike excitement. 
Some of the higher officials did not start until late in 1897, 
and during the winter were tied up at the mouth of the Big 
Salmon River, unable to proceed to Dawson. Meanwhile 
authority was vested in the inspector of police and the gold 
commissioner. The power of the latter to settle all dis- 
putes as to claims is absolute. He listens to cases involving 
ownership to gold claims, and renders his decisions 
promptly. If there has not been some mistake in reports, 
his decision is final. And the adjustment tlmi lie an- 
nounces becomes the law by which all interested parlies 
must abide. 


A single case will illustrate. Michael Kcllv, a Avell- 
knoAvn pioneer, went to the Klondike with his son. Father 
and son located several claims on different- creeks with the 
understanding that they would share the proceeds equally. 
The elder Kelly decided to return to Seattle early in 1897, 
and left his son on the claim last located. At that time the 
Klondike was not knowni to be a bed of glittering gold. 

Kelly was anxious to return to the gold fields, but de- 
sired to raise money in order to leave his family in comfort- 
able circumstances. He met a man by the name of Craw- 
ford and proposed to sell him a half interest in his claim for 
one thousand dollars. Crawford mortgaged his property, 
disposed of his jewelry, and, by taking some friends in with 
him, secured enough money to pay Kelly the one thousand 
dollars. Crawford went to the Klondike in the spring, and, 
to his dismay, found that young Kelly, not knowing what 
his father had done, had sold the Bonanza claim to an Eng- 
lish syndicate for ten thousand dollars. 

When the'elder Kelly learned what had taken place, he 
said that Crawford had made his purchase in good faith and 
that his rights must be protected. The affair was referred 
to the gold commissioner, who decided that Crawford and 
his associates were to have half of the claim, but that they 
must pay to the English syndicate one thousand five hun- 
dred dollars out of the first clean-up, while the Kellys 
should return to the English syndicate five thousand dol- 
lars, or half the original purchase price. 

This decision was accepted by all parties w^ithout a 
murmur, and a tangle was settled in a day that in the 
United States would have been a source of endless litigation. 
Miners said that Crawford's claim was worth between one 
hundred thousand and three hundred thousand dollars. 


It should be iniderstood that all the territory in these re- 
gions constitute what are known as crown lands, the govern- 
ment having the right to reserve it all from pre-emption for 
any purpose. The reservation of gold-bearing lands is 
simply a partial exercise of the right of the crown to ex- 
clusive domain, and the British government has always 
claimed that gold and silver were royal metals, and has 
claimed the right to draw royalty from such metals. As 
soon, therefore, as the government heard of the rich dis- 
coveries on the Klondike, steps were taken to reduce the 
length of the claims to' one hundred feet, and to exact a 
heavy royalty. At first it was proposed to make this royalty 
twenty per cent, and to reserve every alternate claim for the 
government to dispose of in any way it saw fit. It would 
have the right to work them for the crown if it chose, and 
the government would be in a position thus to draw rich 
revenue as a result of the long searches and many hardships 
of the pioneers of the country. 

When the intention of the Dominion government be- 
came known in Dawson, there was great indignation among 
the miners, Canadians as well as Americans. A meeting 
was held on the street, and it was evident that any attempt 
to enforce such a law would either amount to nothing or 
else the development of the mines would stop. 

" What inducement is there for us," said one miner, 
"' to endure all the hardships and expense of mining in this 
country, if, after we have found gold, the governniont steps 
up and takes a fifth of what we dig, and, above that, takes 
one-half of the claims? Many of us have been enduring 
hardships here for years, and until now have scarcely made 
more than enough to provide ourselves with provisions. 
ISTow, when we have found something worth developing in 


this frozen region, Canada talks of keeping the best half for 
herself while we do the work. I guess not." 

The Canadian officials on the spot seemed to sympathize 
with the sentiments of the miners, but they said they should 
strictly enforce whatever became the law. A protest was 
drawn up and a committee appointed to proceed to Ottawa 
and present the case of the miners. In their protest, which 
was a long docuitient worded with skill and force, they 
claimed that the value of the placers had been exaggerated, 
and many claims would not be profitable if such a tax were 
imposed, the rate of wages and the cost of provisions being 
so necessarily high. 

" This," they said, " is a land of tremendous solitudes 
and marvelous wildness. It appears to be a land of im- 
mense promise to the prospector, but the appearance may 
be deceptive. It is outside the range of language to picture 
the trials that encompass the explorer who goes forth here 
with pick, shovel, and gold-pan to search for gold. Only 
strong men are equal to the task, and only men of great 
courage and perseverance can press far. If the government 
place a heavy hand on the prospectors, already almost fren- 
zied Avith toil and privation, prospecting in this district will 
be abandoned by the majority, and prospectors will turn 
toward other gold fields. This is not- a threat; it is a con- 

It was pointed out that if the government reserved every 
alternate claim of one hundred feet it would be impossible 
to co-operate along the creeks for building dams for sluicing 
without trespassing on government claims, and if the 
government should sell its claims it would simply mean that 
the old minei-s who had found the mines and suffered all 
manner of privations would be crowded out by capital, 


which would reap the profit without having heen forced to 
undergo the hardships. 

But the temptation to reap a large revenue was too great 
for the Ottawa government. Besides, it was a source of no 
little chagrin to many Canadians to see the gold worked out 
of British soil l\y Americans to be carried down the coast 
and into the mints of the United States instead of those of 
Canada. This was natural. Doubtless the people of the 
United States would have felt in much the same way had 
the conditions been reversed, although no restrictions what- 
ever had ever been placed on Canadians mining on Birch 
Creek and in other portions of Alaska. The Canadian 
government did not wish to impose so heavy a tax as to put 
an end to the development of the country, but it evidently 
intended to impose all that seemed possible of endurance. 
So during the early part of 1898 the laws were modified to 
some extent. The length of claims to be thereafter al- 
lowed was to be two hundred and fifty feet, a royalty of ten 
per cent, should be levied and collected on the gross output 
of each claim, and every alternate ten claims should be re- 
served for the Canadian government. These are the main 
features of the restrictions which the government propose 
to begin enforcing with the spring of 1898. How success- 
ful it will be remains to be seen. 

It will be observed that these regulations add greatly to 
the expense of mining on Canadian territory. In the first 
place, in order to prospect at all, a man must secure a free 
miner's certificate, which costs him ten dollars a year, and 
if for any reason he fails to renew it promptly he shall for- 
feit all rights to whatever claims he has. When he stakes 
off a claim of two hundred and fifty feet along a creek he 
must at once have it recorded, and that costs him fifteen dol- 


lars. To Avork it Juriiiii' tlie winter he must pay something 
like a thousand dollars for provisions by the time they have 
reached the camp. His fuel will cost him at least five hun- 
dred dollars, and timber and appliances for sluicing as much 
more. To work his claim successfully he must pay at least 
ten dollars a day for all help. If he hires two men his ex- 
penses under this head are not likely to be less than four 
thousand dollars. Supposing in the spring he is so for- 
tunate as to clean up ten thousand dollars. The Canadian 
government takes a thousand of it, and his expenses have 
used up at least six thousand. He might, therefore, be so 
fortunate as to save three thousand for himself, a sum which 
would not much more than provide for his necessities for 
another year. It is evident, therefore, that placers must 
be very rich, and must be worked on a large and economical 
scale to meet such restrictions and expenditures. 

The natural result will be to stimulate the search for 
gold placers on American soil, and if any at all comparable 
with those in the Klondike are found, the Klondike will 
be deserted in a twinkling, by Canadians as well as Ameri- 
cans. If paying mines are not found elsewhere, and the 
Klondike region continues to disclose new riches, the re- 
strictions which Canada has imposed may lead to difficul- 
ties. Of one thing we may be sure ; the laws, whatever they 
are, will be enforced. If a royalty is demanded it will have 
to be paid, and whatever customs duties are levied upon sup- 
plies brought into the country will have to be paid. The 
police will see that the law is carried out, even though they 
consider it unjust. 

One might think that a handful of police could do very 
little with the thousands of miners who within a year will 
be scattered all through the hills about Dawson, and that 


if these people took it into their heads to regulate mining 
there to suit themselves, Canada could do little to prevent it. 
But while there may be dangers in such a possibility, they 
are not great. The country is of such a nature that a few 
police can hold all the points at which gold must pass in 
going out of the country. But what is of more importance, 
the people who are there recognize the advantages of police 
protection in maintaining their rights against each other. 

If any one is looking for a strong illustration of the un- 
certainties of existence in this world, he can find nothing 
better than the mail service on the Yukon. Some realiza- 
tion of its efficiency can be derived from the fact that gold 
was discovered on the Klondike creeks in August, 1896, and 
that it was not till the middle of July, 1897, that the world 
knew about it. It did not learn of it then through the mails, 
but because a dozen or more men who had meanwhile be- 
come millionaires, or something approaching millionaires, 
walked oif a ship just in from St. Michael with several hun- 
dred pounds of gold dust. Yet there was supposed to have 
been a mail service. 

In 1896 the United States made a contract for can-ying 
the mails between Juneau and Circle City, and in writing 
to the postmaster-general in the fall of that year concerning 
his first round trip, one contractor said that he had started 
from Juneau on June 10th. He took along lumber for 
building a boat, but after the Indians had packed it to the 
foot of the summit and taken nearly seventy dollars for it, 
they refused to carry it further, and so he had to leave it 
there and build a raft at Lake Lindeman. Keaching Lake 
Bennett, he built a boat, and finally reached Circlf> Cily. 
But he found he could not undertake to pole up the rivci- 
alone on a return trip, and so he came out l)y (lie way of Si. 


Michael. It cost something like six hundred dollars to 
make the trip, and some of the contractors threw up their 

When Dawson was established there was no way to re- 
ceive or send mail except by those who happened to be 
going in or out. Whoever wished to send a letter would 
pay from one to two dollars to one starting out over the 
passes, but who gave no guarantee that the lettei's w^ould 
be delivered or mailed in the United States. Indeed, it was 
always understood that if emergency came, the letters woidd 
hare to be thro^ra away. Any one who goes over the trail 
will find in many places bits of paper, evidently the frag- 
ments of letters which had been sent out in the hands of some 
one who could carry them no further, and so tore them up. 

Of course, there are many miners around Dawson who 
never expect to hear from home, and these men will never 
loiow whether their friends or relatives ever received letters 
sent them. The missives are started in good faith, and the 
man going out agrees to put them in the post-office, but 
when he is struggling on the trail nearly dead from ex- 
posure and fatigue, hurt by accident, or anything like that, 
the situation resolves itself into a question of life or death 
for many a traveler. In an emergency he goes into his 
pack and throws away everything he can possibly throw 
away — probably leaving nothing but a few provisions and 
his outfit. Going over the passes and lakes, with their at- 
tendant perils and difficulties, is too much for eighty out of 
one hundred. They simply give up. It is a crucial test of 
strength and grit. The few that pull through know what 
it means. 

Couriers have left Dawson with great packages of 
letters, fully intending to carry them through. On the 


way they gave it up in despair, and so, to prevent tlie letters 
being found and read, they are torn up or burned. 

The experience of two partners who started to make the 
trip out shows clearly why a little mail matter may be a 
serious addition to the burden. They had dogs and sleds. 
One of the men fell into a crack in the ice, and went in over 
his head. By a miracle his head came up at the right place, 
and his partner pulled him out of a very dangerous position. 
By the time he was on the ice again his clothes were frozen 
stiff and he was nearly done for. As the sled had remained 
on the ice, his partner quickly lighted a fire in the stove — 
materials for a fire always being " laid " beforehand — 
and cut and tore off the wet garments on the spot. Tlie fel- 
low was nearly stripped in an air where the thennometer 
registered about twenty-five degrees below zero. Part of 
their outfit was lost. If the stove had gone in, it would 
have been a serious matter. After that they lightened 
their packs. 

The destruction of letters was not unusual. In fact, 
that possibility was understood by all parties. The guides 
who agreed to try to carry a package of lettei*s accepted 
the money for the service, but said that if it came to a pinch 
they would throw them away. On this basis of chance did 
the Yukoners conduct their correspondence with the outside 
world. Recently the mounted police have undcrinkcii to 
forward the mails from station to station along the trail 
between the coast and Dawson. 



Seeking an Easier Pass than the Chillioot — Why Gold-Seekers Began 
to Stop at Skagway— A Peaceful Scene in July — The Original 
Promoters Quickly Overwhelmed — A Thousand Tents and a 
Thousand Pack Animals — Organizing the Town — Marvelous 
Real Estate Business — How a Hotel Keeper Announced His 
Facilities — A More Modest Announcement — "Any Old Thing 
Bought and Sold " — Tons of Provisions Scattered on the Beach — 
Saloons and Dance Halls — An Opening Night — The Symbol of 
Law and Order — Herds of Gambling Men — " An Easy Graft " — 
Greenhorns at Packing — Runaway Animals — Many Ludicrous 
Scenes — The Serious Side — A Clergyman's Observations — Tho 
Part the Women Played — Widow Maloney's Debating Society -- 
Respect for the Chair — Debating the Merits of Armies of tha 
World — Some Race Feeling — Mrs. Maloney Does Not Permit 
Abuse of " Ould Ireland" — A Hundred Days of Growth —> 
"Biggest " Town in Alaska. 

PEltHAPS no feature of tlie rush for the Klondike in 
1897 is more significant of the conditions affecting 
travel in these northern lands than the stories of the 
efforts to enter by the Skagway trail, as told by the few who 
managed to work their way through and reach Dawson 
early in the winter. It is an instructive chapter, not simply 
in the story of the Klondike, but in the annals of human 
nature. It is doubtful if there is anything in history to 
compare with the sudden rise of the city of Skagway, and 



the trials of the thousands of people who endeavored to 
make their way from it over the White Pass to the head- 
waters of the Yukon. 

Parties from the Pacific coast had for some time been 
seeking an easier way to pass into the Northwest Terri- 
tory than that afforded by the Chilkoot heights, and one 
Captain William Moore, who had been a pioneer in that 
region, and had acquired much experience in steamboating, 
persuaded, these parties to take hold of the White Pass. 
]\[oore's son had meanwhile located a hundred and sixty 
acres where the Skagway harbor would necessarily be, and 
work was begun to put the pass in shape. 

The company proceeded to build a sawmill and a wharf, 
and was intending to open a trail when the first news of 
the richness of the Klondike awakened the people of the 
west coast. One day, when one of the earlier steamers 
heavily laden Avith the first of the gold-seekers was steaming 
up Taiya Inlet, the captain of the steamer remarked : " I 
understand that there is a good trail over the mountains 
here, and a better pass than the Chilkoot. It is easier to 
land cargoes, too. Suppose I put you all ashore here." 

The gold-seekers consulted, and the resvilt was that they 
were put ashore. This was on the 26th of -luly, and at that 
time Skagway presented as peaceful a scene as any one could 
wish. There was one log building and. a tent. In less than 
a month, and long before the forerunners had made their 
way over the pass, Skagway was a place of two thousand 
people, while twice as many more were scattered along on 
the trail. It had become a place of a thousand tents and 
buildings, mostly the former, and a thousand pack animals. 
Saloons and dance halls had sprung up like magic l)nildings, 
and were in full blast, and many of those who liiid iirrived 


Avitli the intention of going over quickly settled down, either 
in despair of getting over at all, or simply to fleece those who 
bravely persisted and those who were constantly arriving. 

The sudden inpoiiring of people completely over- 
whelmed the original promoters of the enterprise ; they had 
been dreaming of rich results from the monopoly control 
of this trail after being put in shape, but they soon found 
that they had nothing to say, not even concerning the site 
of the town and harbor to which they supposed they were 

On August 12th the people held a meeting and organ- 
ized a town government by electing A. J. McKinney mayor, 
and a committee was chosen to lay out the town in regular 
form with streets sixty feet wide and lots fifty by one hun- 
dred feet. A law was passed forbidding any man to hold 
more than one lot, and he must do fifty dollars' worth of 
work on it within thirty days. Within a few days real 
estate business was flourishing; lots w^ere being transferred 
for from one hundred dollar to two hundred and fifty dol- 
lars for such rights as the squatter had. Lots in what ap- 
peared to be the business portion were held at high figures, 
and few were sold, while more squatters settled back in the 
woods, and even down on the tide flats, in ignorance of the 
tides that sometimes run up. Some of the business enter- 
prises which sprung up in those few days were indeed pic- 
turesque. There were restaurants in tents, of course, but 
some of the signs were very pretentious. 

A Seattle man, who started for the gold fields in August, 
and who was, like so many othei's, caught at Skagway, de- 
voted his energies to running an improvised hotel, the an- 
nouncement of which was conspicuously posted as follows on 
the " outer gates " : 


Holley House, Holleywood. 

Skagway, Alaska. 

Hotel and cottages; The Most Delightful Health Resort ou the 
Coast of Noi'th America. 

Cusine and Accommodations First-Class. 

Six Cottages in Connection With the Hotel. 

Barber, Billiards, Bath, Private Supper Rooms, Music in the palm 
garden adjoining the dining room. 

Charges from |2 up according to the location of the rooms. 

Meals a la carte. Private Suites. Extra charges for meals served 
in rooms. 

Note — Anybody kicking about looking-glasses or pillows will be 
" trun." 

Some were more modest, however, as, for instance, one 

man who had pitched his tent in a rough spot in the midst of 

trees. On a line stretched from his tent to one of the trees 

hung a pair of okl light-colored trousers, and painted on them 

in large letters was the word : 

" MEALS." 

On a large sign on the outside of one tent was a legend 
announcing to the passers-by that they could there buy or 
sell " boats, horses, provisions, outfits, or any old thing." 
Horse-shoeing was a great industry, and there were too few 
who understood it. In one shop four men were kept busy, 
so busy that they had no time to straighten up their acliing 
backs. But they received large prices, five dollars for put- 
ting on an old shoe. All prices for services were " uyt in tlie 
air." Men charged two dollars and fifty cents for swim- 
ming a horse ashore, two dollars for landing a boat, four 
dollars a ton for lightering freight. Camping sites were 
ruling at ten dollars a week. 

In less than two months more than one thousand one 
hundred locations were being made, and the town of tents 
began to give way to the town of frame liouses. I'lic trail 


wae not ojH'ii, and not even the correct distance was known, 
before the eager throng was crowding wuth horses, goats, 
oxen, and mules hitched to carts, wagons, and drags, and 
carrying pack saddles loaded with flour, bacon, beans, dried 
apples, and hay. Already the saloons and dance halls were 
np and ready for patrons. Tons of stuff were scattered over 
the beach, and shiploads strung along the trail. Lumber 
was in great demand, and lots selling as high as one thousand 
five hundred dollars. 

The first dance hall was opened a few hours after the ar- 
rival of one of the steamers laden with people bound for 
Klondike, about the middle of August. A Juneau man 
had put a piano aboard, and, having secured quarters, he 
had a great opening, taking in one hundred and thirty-four 
dollars the first hour from drinks alone. On the outside of 
the dance house was a tree to which was hung several sig- 
nificant notices, and from one of the limbs dangled a one- 
inch rope with a noose, put there as a warning or symbol of 
law and order by the Vigilance Committee, and it was quite 
effective against high crime. Three of the notices read : 

" Free Dance To-night." 

" Packers Wanted on the Trail. Apply to Mack & 

" Saddle Hoi-ses Wanted — Xo Cheap Hatracks." 

Of course herds of gambling men hurried from .the 
Pacific coast to set up at Skagway, and, for a time, every 
kind of a game was running in the most open manner. As 
one of ihem expressed it, it was the " easiest graft " on 
earth. But as the place grew the citizens regulated these 
enterprises and order was fairly well maintained. 

" Skag^vay," said one man, " reminded me a good deal 
of a circus town, there were so manv tents. It looked a 


g'ood deal as Cheyenne did in the early days. Eating 
booths were scattered all about. The saloons were made of 
boards loosely thrown together. You could almost throw a 
cat through the cracks. There are some very curious and 
interesting signs painted on boards and stuck up outside the 
tents to announce the business of the occupants. One that 
particularly attracted my attention read : ' Hot bread and 
stamps for sale.' 

" On arriving, people made reconnoitering trips over a 
portion of the pass, returning full of exuberance at the easy 
time they would have in getting over. They were right in 
this at that time, but they reckoned without their host. 
They did not know of the trouble in store for them in get- 
ting their stores and belongings off the boat. It took nearly 
a week to get things sorted, and then there was the greatest 
jumbled-up mess one ever looked at. Many of the goods 
were damaged much by water. It would have taken a 
Philadelphia lawyer to straighten things. When the in- 
dividual outfits were finally distributed, new troubles hap- 
pened, caused chiefly by the inexperience of the people 
themselves. Men attempted to pack horses who liad never 
before in their lives seen a pack; the horses were new to the 
business, and more than once I have witnessed sights that 
convulsed me with laughter, and at the same time caused a 
feeling of sadness for the poor chaps whose troubles would 
almost drive them to desperation. A greenhorn (we were 
nearly all greenhorns) would pack his horse down witli 
flour, beans, and other things too numerous to mention, 
and tie them on any way, when all of a sudden there 
would be a kick, a buck, and the next instant a maddr'iicd 
horse would be running over tents and through the lilUc 


city, scattering beans and flour in all directions. Some- 
times it would take a wliole day to capture tlie horse. It 
was such thing's as these that caused many a fellow to sell 
his outfit for anything he could get and return to civiliza- 

" This, though, was the ludicrous side, many things 
occurring on the trail, when the mud in the meadows was 
knee-deep, that would drive the stoutest-hearted man to 

A clergyman who came in over the trail said that 
when the history of the present excitement should be writ- 
ten up, woman's part in it would form a chapter of special 
interest. " Along the Skagway trail," he said, '' I was at- 
tracted by the sound of an axe in the wood, and, going in its 
direction, I found there, all alone, a slim woman about 
twenty years old, felling trees and building a cabin. I took 
a snap-shot picture of her before she knew of my presence. 
She told me that she and her husband started for the Klon- 
dike, but, not being able to proceed, her husband opened a 
saloon till spring, and wished her to serve in it. This she 
positively refused to do, but, being willing to take her part 
in the struggle, she determined to build a log cabin and 
sell it when the rush was on. I gave her a lift with a few 
logs she had ready for the wall, and left, feeling that she was 
a noble woman and a true wife. 

" There were hundreds of idle men, grudging every day 
the food they ate, and impatient to reach the diggings. 
Many of them were quarrelsome and given terribly to pro- 
fanity. Therefore, I suggested that we might get together 
and form a debating society. It would at least take our 
minds off our monotonous surroundings and help pass away 
the idle hours. This w^as agTced to, and Widow ]\Ialoney's 


restaurant was selected, being the largest tent in the camps. 
The time for discussion was to be anywhere from 4 to 10 
P. M. The chairman was to take his seat when the boarders 
got throngh snpper, abont an hour after sundown, and pre- 
serve order as the disputants came and went at pleasure. 
The audience, too, was free to come and go as the spirit 
moved, and no objections were to be raised by the chairman 
if in the heat of passion any one went a-scattering lead from 
his revolver, for it was conceded by all that the only two 
governments which in any event could interfere were those 
of the United States and Canada, and as these bodies them- 
selves did not know which had jurisdiction over Lindeman, 
it was evident that moral snasion alone could be appealed to. 
The question then came up, AYho had enough of this com- 
modity on hand to preside over the turbulent crowd? Sev- 
eral were suggested, but they were objectionable, because 
on the feast provocation they might open a blazing battery 
from the seat of authority. Finally, I was made supreme 
spokesman in Mrs. Maloney's restaurant, presumably be- 
cause of a meek and lowly appearance. On taking my seat, 
however, at the first meeting, I presented a rope, and, hold- 
ing it before the astonished audience, assured them that 
while I might be living in a place without political rule, I 
would hang by the neck, on the pine tree outside, every 
mother's son of them who did not respect the chair. This 
had a soothing effect, and the lion, the lamb, the kid, and 
the calf huddled together for a while in sweetest harmony. 

" One evening the subject of debate was, 'Is Prosperity 
Coming or Going in the United States? ' Tlie discussion 
at times was very animated, as all the political parties of the 
country were represented, and each claimed that his, and liis 
alone, could give the people the horn of plenty. Tlie cut- 


down in the New England factories was freely talked over, 
and it was generally agreed that cotton operatives in the 
States are only befooled by the politicians w^hen they 
promise them anything. Their only hope lies in them- 
selves, When they agree, Xorth and South, to work only 
for living wages and uniform hours of labor, they may think 
as little of politics as they do in other countries. Not 
pauper labor in Europe, nor political parties in America, are 
at the root of the present troubles. 

" Another evening was given up to the discussion of the 
merits and demerits of the several armies of the world. 
This was the liveliest night of all. Men from all nations 
w^ere present, and, of course, each reckoned his owm best and 
bravest. The Englishmen thought there was nothing on 
earth that could stand up before the redcoats, and the Irish- 
men present declared that that was so because there were 
no Saxons inside. The Celtic race alone made the* British 
array respected. An Englishman pertinently asked ' If 
Irishmen were such fools as to fight for the greatness 
and glory of old England?' 'They have to, or starve,' 
cried a dozen voices. Paddy Sheehan, however, got into 
hot water when he attempted to prove that it was the 
Irish that fought and conquered in the late "VVar of the Re- 

" A Rhode Islander present was so cruel as to charge 
against poor Paddy's race in reply, that the only time it dis- 
tinguished itself was at the first battle of Bull Run, when 
they made the quickest time on record to the other side of 
the Potomac. This led to pulling of revolvers, and for a 
time there was a threatening war-cloud over the head- 
w^aters of the Yukon. It capped the climax, however, when 
a Canadian boastingly declared that there was a fragrant 


smell to the English rose and a piercing sting to the Scotch 
thistle; but nothing but a butterfly would either love or fear 
the shamrock. 

" Up to this point Widow Maloney took no part in the 
discussion ; but to sit still and hear a ' hathen f urn'r ' 
speak disparagingly of the emblem of her dear land was 
more than she could stand, and, taking up a stick that lay by 
the stove, she made for him, shouting, ' An' is it ould Ire- 
land ye're abusin', ye blackguard ? ' 

'' To pull his gun on a woman would have been sure 
death to the Canadian, and he knew it. He also knew that 
to stand up or sit down was dangerous, and therefore he put 
himself outside of Widow Maloney's tent quicker than I 
can tell. Everyone who had said anything slightingly of 
the Irish race, or of Ireland, was now profuse in his apologies 
to Mrs. Maloney. But Jack Rogers, from Chicago, went 
beyond all others in exalting Ireland, in that he declared 
there was a woman in the moon, and that he believed her 
to be an Irish maiden, for she had a shamrock on her breast. 
The idea of a woman being seen in the moon was such a 
novelty that the meeting adjourned to see her. Every one 
who witnessed the new and strange sight that night will 
never forget it, and, as for Mrs. Maloney, her anger was 
charmed away by the thought that perhaps in the moon 
there were Irish maidens who bore the shamrock, and her 
wounded feelings were healed by the assurance of all present 
that the woman in the moon was not either Canadian or 
British, and most likely was a daughter of one of the kings 
who reigned of old in Tara's halls." 

It will be diiRcult for people of staid eastern towns of 
slow growth, or no growth at all, to realize the extent of 
the mushroom expansion of Skagway. As I have said, in 


the last week in July, it was a quiet nook in the dreary liills 
with a log hut and a tent near the flat beach. 

In one hundred days there was a substantia] town of five 
hundred frame and one liiuidrctl log buildings, besides tents 
scattered all through the woods. Many of the buildings 
were of two stories and some of them of three. Among the 
enterprises which were flourishing were : 

A wide-awake six-page weekly newspaper — the SJcag- 
icay Keu's. 

A church and schoolhouse combined, seating capacity 
three hundred persons, built by contributions from all de- 

A private post-ofiice. 

Three wharves for heavy-draft vessels, costing twenty 
thousand dollars each. 

An electric light system was being introduced, and a 
city water system, consisting of a simple board flume, 
brought an ample supply of good water from a lake on the 
mountain side. 

A jail was built, and sundry United States government 
officials, including a United States commissioner, with a 
number of doctors, lawyers, etc., were among the citizens. 

Skagway could accommodate one thousand eight hun- 
dred people at the hotels and lodging-houses. A three- 
story hotel, fifty by one hundred feet, was in course of con- 
struction, capable of accommodating four hundred people. 

In three months it had become the " biggest " town in 



An Impussable Trail — The Blockade — Stories Brought to Dawson — 
Principal Features of the White Pass Route — Slippery Places for 
Horses — Over Precipices into the River — Porcupine Hill — 
Where Most of the Horses Were Lost — The Sight of a Life Time — 
Death on Summit Lake — Efforts to Open the Trail — All Kinds 
of Pack Animals — Scarcity of Fodder — Selling Hay and Throw- 
ing in the Horses — The Big Marsh — Floundering in the Mud — 
Thieving on the Trail — Looking for Pierre, the Frenchman — 
Discovered with Stolen Goods — Appealing to Hearts of Stone — 
Six Shots Sounding as One — The Limp Form of a Thief Hanging 
by tlie Wayside — A Heap of Stones Cast on the Body — Chances 
to Make Money on the Trail. 

THE immediate cause for the rise of Skagway was the 
apparently reasonable assertion that the White Pass 
was much easier to go over than the Chilkoot Pass, 
the latter being about a thousand feet higher than the 
former. But the secondary and main cause for the growth 
of Skagway was the fact that, from the first, the White Pass 
route was well-nigh impassable. In the firet place, the 
people had rushed in before the trail was ready. Severn] 
thousand people set out to take Xature as they found her in 
Alaska, and then discovered that she was utterly unmanage- 
able. The pass might have afforded a comfortable route for 



the few wlio were acqiiaintccl with the conditions of trails, 
and familiar with the requirements of packing, but when 
several thousand people endeavored to pass over in midsum- 
mer, with all sorts of rigs, with horses, mules, and oxen, they 
found it an impossibility. The result was a blockade. 
Only a small number of those who started reached even the 
summit of White Pass. The great majority simply settled 
back, and made Skagway a booming town for no better 
reason than that its inhabitants could not get out of it. I do 
not believe that history can show a grimmer joke than that 
town. It had not the slightest reason for existence in that 
desolate region, except as a gateway to an entrance which 
could not be forced. 

The stories which were brought into Dawson of suffer- 
ings on the trail were vivid and stirring, though, to tell the 
truth, we had very little sympathy for the eager crowd that 
was endeavoring to come in. Most of us had been in Alaska 
long enough to know that it is very difficult to secure a suf- 
ficiency of food when only a few are in the country, and we 
realized that, if the crowd at Skagway got through, there 
would be an enormous number of mouths to fill with com- 
paratively few provisions in sight for the purpose. By the 
time we began to hear the stories of the Skagway trail it had 
become sufficiently evident that the only salvation of Daw- 
son for the winter was in the White Pass proving impass- 
able. We regarded the stories of the difficulties of that 
trail, therefore, with a sort of selfish satisfaction. 

Unlike the Chilkoot Pass route, which is a constant 
ascent, ending with a steep climb to the summit, the White 
Pass route is a succession of hills, so that a great deal of 
waste climbing is done, ]-)robably enough to make up for the 
difference in altitude, which, apparently, is in favor of the 


White Pass. The trail was constructed something on the 
principle of a huge trap. For the fii*st three or four miles 
it looked very easy and attractive. For this distance there 
was a wagon road over which horses and wagons would meet 
with little difficulty. Then the Skagway, which is a shal- 
low stream, though very swift, had to be crossed. Some of 
the first pilgrims had constructed a rude bridge of logs over 
which but one horse could pass at a time. Wagons had to 
be unloaded, horses led carefully over, then the wagons 
drawn over and reloaded. From this bridge wagons could 
be used three miles further, when what was quite appro- 
priately dubbed Devil's Hill was encountered. Here the 
trouble began. The trail was not over two feet wide, and 
at the top of the hill horses were compelled to make a jump 
of two feet high and alight on a slippery rock. At one 
place there was a path up a steep incline on which logs had 
been laid, fonning a sort of ladder. 

" When you get to the top of it you are five hundred 
feet above sea level," said one of the few who came through 
safely. " The hill is very rocky, but I was careful to make 
notes of its condition, and there is no reason why a moun- 
tain climber should not put his horse over there with com- 
parative ease. iSTotwithstanding that fact, T found a dead 
horse on the pass. I examined it and found that it liad 
broken one of its legs. The owner had no more use for it 
and killed it. After leaving the first hill you descend, 
entering a canon, when another hill is encountered with a 
rise of eight hundred feet. 

" The path over it, or, rather, around it, should not be 
dignified by the name of trail. It is less than two feet wide 
at many places, and the walking, especially for hoi-ses, is 
the worst imaginable. The formation on the surface is a 


soft, slippery, slate rock. The path winds its crooked way 
around the mountain, while below it drops oft" sheer five hun- 
dred feet to the river. This is the place where so many 
horses and packs have been lost. 

'' One pack train of seventeen horses lost eight of them 
down this slide on the first trip over. The footing is all that 
a clear-minded, strong-nerved man would care to encounter, 
and it is practically impossible for such horses as are there 
to pack any considerable amount of supplies around this 

" On the farther side of Porcupine Hill is a place where 
one must be very cautious. Boulders from four to ten feet 
square are met with. One must work around the corners of 
these boulders to get down in safety. It took me about one 
hour and a half. I went slowly, picking my way, as one ac- 
customed to mountain climbing will do, and had no difficulty 
in reaching the foot of the hill. I was careful to note the 
dangers that a horse would encounter, and I say that a horse 
can go over Porcupine Hill all right if the person handling 
the animal knows his business. Inquiry satisfied me that 
the death of many horses was due solely to the inexperience 
of those in charge. The packs are put on the backs of the 
horses with gross carelessness, and wdiat is the result? It 
is up hill and down hill, and around boulders, and before 
the journey is accomplished the packs begin to slide, and 
the horse's burden is thus increased threefold. A slip is 
made, the pack gives way, and the animal goes down to its 
death, or breaks a leg and is killed by the owner, who curses 
his luck and starts back for another horse. 

" Following this place is what is known as First Bridge 
Hill, which covers a distance of three miles. Then comes 
the hill called Summit Hill, four miles of as tough climbing 


as one ever saw. It was on this hill that the great loss of 
horses occnrred. The trail runs along the side of a rocky 
mountain, where a misstep will send an animal from five 
hundred to one thousand feet below. On the side of nearly 
all thes3 hills the liquid mud was two feet deep, and in some 
places it ran like a stream. There were sharp rocks and 
round rocks, and great slabs of granite down which the 
hoi^ses slid into mud holes. 

" Half the people are greenhorns and don't know how 
to pack a horse. They pile on the load, and when the horse 
gets to a bad place, the pack hits against the rocks, and, of 
course, makes the horse step out to keep his balance. Down 
go his feet, and over goes the horse. I saw one mule turn 
three complete somersaults, and the owner never went after 
either the mule or the packs. You can see dead horses and 
lost packs all along down the precipice, and all mixed up to- 
gether. 'Why don't they go after them?' Well, it 
would take them a week to go down there and bring up a 
pack. It's two thousand feet down there in some places. 
Some men, after packing heavy outfits over seventeen miles 
of this trail, sold out for enough to pay their fare back to the 
United States. 

" It was a sight such as one would not care to see more 
than once in a lifetime. Horses, tents, feed, supplies, 
and men were piled together is an apparently hopeless 
tangle. A drizzling rain was falling most of the time. 
Stubborn fires were smouldering and sputtering, and men 
were standing or wandering about as tliough they were 
dazed by the obstacles ahead. I couldn't help noticing the 
tired, haggard look on almost every face that T saw, as 
though the load of anxiety and care was more llian tliey 
could endure." 


Summit Lake is about a mile wide and six miles long, 
and near the middle is a tall, rocky inlet which, in rough 
weather, is noted for the breakers which dash upon its 
shores. One foggy moniing, shortly after a party had 
started on its journey, a squall sprang up, and not being 
able to make out their bearings in the fog, their little boat 
was driven straight upon the rocks. She capsized and 
threw the three men into the icy water. One of them im- 
mediately sank and was never seen again. The other two 
struck out for the shore and finally reached it, though one 
was so exhausted that he had to be dragged out of the water. 

There were any number struggling along the trail who 
w^ould have turned back had it not been for their pride. 
All those poor fellows worked as they had never worked be- 
fore, and w^hen they finished were wet through with per- 
spiration or rain, or both. When night came, they lay 
down on the damp ground. By morning they were too stiff 
to move at first, but, when they got around to it, another 
hard day's work followed. All along was strung a line of 
struggling horses and cursing men, picking their way over 
and around rocks, logs, and dead animals. 

Completely balked by this impassable mountain barrier, 
with the prospect of spending a long Alaskan winter on an 
inhospitable sea coast, where blizzards and storms have free 
play for over four months of the year, the six thousand or 
more gold-seekers at Skagway finally combined to close the 
trail and assail it with dynamite which had been brought 
up from Juneau. So an army of about two hundred men 
started in to open it for all. ISTotices were posted all along 
the trail warning miners to get out of the way under penalty 
of punishment. Fp to this time but five parties had suc- 
ceeded in getting over the summit, and the other thousands 


were strung all the way along from the coast for fourteen 
miles into the mountains of the interior. From time to 
time steamers arrived loaded down with other gold-seekers. 
When in a few days the trail was reopened it soon became 
as bad as ever. 

After a time the stench from dead horses became so 
offensive in Skagway that a mass-meeting was held to plan 
for the abatement of the nuisance. As a result a great num- 
ber of bodies were gathered together and cremated. 

One passenger said that up to October not more than 
twenty complete outfits had reached the lakes over the Skag- 
way trail. " A majority of those who got through," he 
said, " had not more than two hundred or five hundred 
pounds of outfit. I knew one man with only one hundred 
and seventy-five pounds. On the summit snow is now fully 
six feet deep and the fall continues quite heavy. There are 
some of the miners who will make an attempt to get in with 
sleds and dog trains, when snows have covered the trails, 
and the lakes are frozen. No one has been getting in of 
late, and, in fact, very few have attempted to do so, for 
the trail is in such a bad condition that it is absurd to think 
of doing so." 

Every description of pack animals could be seen on the 
trail, from the family driving horse and the trick mule, 
down to the smallest Mexican burro. It was impossible to 
hire any packing done, and only an option on a horse after 
the owner w^as through with him could be obtained, and 
these sold for ten times as much as the animals Avere worth 
anywhere else. Two people who hnd an option on four 
little cayuses for four hundred dollars, to be delivered in 
one week, dead or alive, were shortly afterwards offered six 
hundred dollars for them. 


AVhen this sort of thing had been going on for a little 
time, horse feed became scarce and horses were at a dis- 
count. Early in September a man could pick up a good 
horse for ten dollars. A party which, during the season of 
hio-h prices had rushed back to the United States and secured 
a few horses, found, when they returned, that they could 
not be sold. So they loaded their horses with fodder, which 
was at a great premium, and started for the summit. Reach- 
ing there they sold the feed for eighteen dollars a sack and 
threw the horses in, so they got out of the dilemma very well. 
But by the time the hay was l^rought up to the hungry 
animals waiting for it, the other animals met on the trail, 
by each taking a passing nip, had reduced the quantity by 
about fifty per cent. The horses are fond of birch leaves, 
but they soon contracted mud fever, and, as they were in- 
sufiiciently fed and not sheltered at all, they soon became 
worthless. They really died from lack of care. Horses 
were a good deal better on the Skagway trail than burros, 
although the best thing of all was an ox, which was A'ery 
good for muddy traveling, and could carry a big load. The 
burros taken up were almost a failure. They were good 
over rocks, but no good at all in the swamp, which forms 
about two-thirds of the entire distance. 

Those who succeeded in working their way past these 
obstacles found themselves finally at the big marsh. Of 
this no adequate description is possible. It is a terror for 
packers. A horse flounders and rolls in the mud, until he 
either gives up from exhaustion, or else tears his pack loose, 
or breaks a leg. ]\Iany of the miners were camped on this 
bog, which is a mile and a half long, waiting till the freeze 
of winter covers the ground so that they could get across. 
The ground was soft and springy, and very muddj' even be- 


fore it was trampled up. A man went to his knees in the 
mud, and a horse wallowed to his belly. After crossing the 
marsh the trail is much the same as in the earlier stages, up 
and down over a continuous chain of hills and mountains. 

At times the gold-seekers were encouraged to believe 
that there was a betterment, owing to the men's efforts to 
corduroy the bad places, and the occasional glimpse of sun, 
but a night's rain would undo it all, and the morning would 
show it worse than ever. The horses floundered over the 
boulders and through the mud, which is nothing more than 
decomposed vegetation, and broke their legs. Then they 
were shot or knocked on the head. Lack of animals, and 
particularly the fact that it is impossible to move supplies, 
led many to split up their outfits and Iiurry on Avith barely 
enough to last them until they reached the river camps. 

People who had flattered themselves that they had suf- 
ficient foresight to take in lumber to be put together for 
boats after crossing the pass, found that the proper thing to 
do with it at Skagway was to throw it away. One man built 
his house entirely out of lumber which had been intended 
for lake boats, and which had cost nearly three hundred dol- 
lars in the United States. This Skagway man picked up all 
he wanted of it for eighteen dollars a thousand, and much 
of it cost him nothing. Owners were glad to give it away to 
get it off their hands. 

Towards the end of the season, when thousands of men 
and animals and tons of freight were scattered along the 
trail, thieving began. Some who had sold their outfits at 
Skagway, and pushed on light-handed so as to get through, 
began to appropriate new outfits on the other side. 

A party of prospectors had, after great hardships, packed 
their goods over the worst part of the Skagway trail, lind 


caelicd them, and were inoving- tliem by relays to the lakes. 
Some of the goods it had cost thirty dollars a hundred to get 
over. One day, about the middle of August, they missed 
from their cache a sack of flour and one hundred pounds of 
bacon. They had taken no precaution against theft, be- 
lieving that under such conditions as exist in Alaska a man's 
property would be held sacred. 

Immediately upon discovering their loss they notified 
the other miners in the vicinity. A meeting was called 
at once. Each gold-seeker felt that his sack of flour might 
be the next to go, and it was agreed that a food thief was as 
dreadful an enemy as a murderer. Food to these men was 
life. A committee of six vigilantes was chosen by lot to 
search out the criminal and punish him, the penalty to be 

In a tent near the summit lived a Frenchman known 
only as " Pierre." He was low-browed, dark-visaged, and 
surly. He had no friends and seemed to desire none, while 
his doubtful manners and appearance made him an object of 
suspicion and dislike. At dusk of the day on wdiicli the 
loss was made known the vigilantes climbed to the summit. 
They went silently and paused when near the tent for a 
whispered consultation. Approaching still nearer, tliey 
saw that a dim light was burning within, and upon the 
canvas was cast the grotesque shadow of the Frenchman. 
He was stooping close to the ground. 

" He's burying the grub," whispered one of the vigi- 

Leaving two men outside, four entered the tent. One 
was the prospector who had been robbed. Pierre started 
up at the appearance of his visitors. His movement for a 
gun was arrested by a sharp word of warning, and he stood 


as though petrified, his eyes riveted on the muzzles of four 

There was no need of searching further. In a rude hole 
dug in the hard earth in the center of the tent lay the sack 
of flour and the bacon. The owner recognized the marks 
and identified them as his property. Without a word the 
Frenchman was seized, and with stout ropes, brought along 
for the purpose, was tied hand and foot. He begged 
piteously for mercy, and his black whiskers stood out on a 
face pale as that of a corpse. He appealed to hearts of 
stone. There was no softening light in the eyes of his cap- 

They carried him out, and to a pole before his fragile 
habitation they lashed him fast. All six withdrew a short 
distance, and, at a word, six shots rang out, sounding as one. 
Then the vigilantes left. 

A life for a sack of flour and one hundred pounds of 

The limp form, bleeding from six wounds, hung there 
all night, and the next day it was there, and the next. Over 
the trail, a short distance away, passed many men. When 
they looked toward the lonely tent and saw its sentinel they 
averted their faces and hurried by. Even the horses shied, 
seeming to feel a nameless horror in the atmosphere. Late 
on the afternoon of the third day two men stayed in their 
journey to finish the work of the vigilantes. They un- 
bound the body and dragged it further up the hill. They 
could not wait to dig a grave, but they piled stones high 
above the body and left it there. The lonely cairn is a 
warning to others who, like Pierre, hope to reach the Yukon 
with no other outfit than light fingers. 

While this terrible struggle was taking place on the 


Skagway trail, the route by the Chilkoot Pass remained 
open, and hundreds went over. But the prices for packing 
were enormous. The Indians and professional packers 
(juickly raised the price to thirty and even forty cents a 
pound, and many threw their outfits away rather than pay 
such rates. Others who had money were willing to pay 
almost anything, so great was their haste to get through, 
while many who had the sense to proceed more moderately 
took advantage of every opportunity for making money. 

A man named Johnson had early in the season managed 
to get himself and family over the Chilkoot Pass, together 
with a small knockdown boat. When he reached Crater 
Lake he determined to cut off part of the distance around it 
by putting his boat together and ferrying his supplies. 
"While loading his boat a man came along and offered him 
ten dollars for a lift over the lake. Johnson said he was not 
in the ferrying business, but, if he had room when his own 
goods had been loaded, he would do so. He found that he 
had room, and while loading in the stranger's effects an- 
other came along and offered ten dollars for a lift over the 
lake. The result was that Johnson made forty dollars that 
afternoon after two o'clock. 

Xow, when an old Yukon miner strikes a placer capable 
of yielding about one hundred dollars a day by hard work, 
he regards himself as one of the lucky men of the earth. 
The early pioneers had wintered with the blizzards and 
summered with the mosquitoes, and up to the discovery of 
the Bonanza had barely made enough to pay for their sup- 
plies. And here Johnson with his knockdown boat had a 
Klondike shoved by Fate right under his nose. He had 
sense enough to see it, and to take advantage of this golden 
opportunity. Many were so anxious to get to Dawson and 


pick gold off the bushes that they wouldn't have seen a 
chance twice as big. 

Johnson just set up his tent and established his family, 
and announced that he was the only ferryman on Crater 
Lake. In thirty-one days he made three thousand dollars, 
and meanwhile his wife had broken open some of their sup- 
plies and was making pies that sold like hot cakes for a dol- 
lar each. Later in the season Johnson sold his little boat 
for three hundred dollars, and bought a larger one and a 
new stock of supplies from those who were anxious to drop 
a part of theirs, and made his way to the Yukon, where he 
was in plenty of time to get a good claim in one of the pay- 
ing districts. Some of those who had iiished by him had 
spent a lot of money, more than they would earn in a long 
time working at fifteen dollars a day, and working hard, 
and they had allowed their provisions to be reduced. Then, 
caught in the ever-shifting eddies of the stampedes, they 
rushed here and there staking claims, some of them doubt- 
less securing good ones, but it was as yet unknown, and their 
claims were no better because they had hurried. Those 
who came later had the same opportunities, and meanwhile 
had been picking up the money which the others had 



Miners Hasten to Secure Provisions — Companies Fear Speculation in 
Food — Eggs at $4 a Dozen — Good Mining Claims Traded for 
Provisions — Candles at a Dollar Apiece — Waiting Three Hours to 
File an Order — The Trading Companies Confer — Doling Out 
Provisions — The Steamboats near Fort Yukon — Fruitless Efforts 
to Get over the Bar — Captain Hansen's Efforts — Returning to 
Dawson — Watching the River for the Steamboats — The Situation 
Realized — Plenty of Whisky, but Little to Eat — Police without 
Supplies — The Warehouses Threatened — Police Contemplate the 
Necessity of Seizing Provisions — Fancy Prices for Dogs — Mine 
Owners Threatened by Failure to Pay Debts. 

AS soon as the old miners became aware of the great 
rush from the States which was threatened, they 
hastened to the storehouses of the different com- 
panies to secure their supplies for the next winter. This 
began as soon as the first provisions arrived, and the result 
was that the greater part of the cargoes were sold as fast 
as the boats came to Dawson. A little later the companies, 
instead of turning over the provisions, took orders and the 
gold dust for them and kept tabs on the buyers, something 
as rations are distributed in army camps. Prices were not 
raised by the companies, but it was evident that the threat- 
ened scarcity would gTeatly enhance the price of such pro- 



visions as found their way into the hands of the people, and 
there were evidences that many who had plenty of money 
were calculating to buy from the companies all they could 
and hold for speculation. It was largely to shut off specula- 
tion of this kind that the companies adopted the system of 
doling out provisions in small lots, carefully noting how 
each man was taking. 

Curious instances of the value of food came to light 
every day. Two men arriving early in June brought in four 
hundred dozen eggs,, which they had collected on the way. 
Within eight hours they sold nearly all of them at four dol- 
lars a dozen in gold dust, and they had a fair working capital 
right away. Bacon was then selling at sixty-five cents per 
pound, but flour held at twelve dollars per hundred; indeed, 
flour seemed to be the cheapest article, except gold, on the 

When the question of supplies began to assume a very 
serious character many bright men who had brought in large 
outfits saw a chance to dispose of a part of them for interest 
in claims. Old miners who could not secure provisions 
enough for the winter, and who realized that it would be 
cheaper and better for them to dispose of a part of their 
rights for food rather than leave their claims and endure 
the dangers of a journey up or down the river, made such 
arrangements, and it was a very fortunate thing for some of 
the newcomers. 

Some of those wlio had thrown away their jirovisions 
on tlie passes, or had disposed of them earlier on the trnil 
in order to get through, then saw men who had arrived 
somewhat later pick up choice claims that their money 
would not have bought. One fellow liad six boxes of 
candles, wliieh were very scarce. He sf)hl off a lot rtf lliciii 


at n dollar cacli, and obtained besides some good interests in 
claims on (^^uartz and Hunker creeks. 

Too many on their arrival at Dawson made no prepara- 
tions for the winter, and it was difficult to make them realize 
the kind of weather that was before them. There was 
plenty of work, and money in abundance, so everything 
looked rosy to many who were so constituted that they 
would have difficulty in taking care of themselves any- 

When the stampede " for grub " really began it had 
about the same effect on the stores which a run has on a 
bank. They closed their doors, and but one was open for 
sales in small quantities. When the last two steamers up 
arrived from St. ^Michael bringing about a thousand tons of 
provisions, extra offices were opened to receive winter 
orders, and the rush to get them in resembled the opening 
of a box-office sale for some great theatrical attraction. 
Hundreds stood in the long lines. One man told me he 
waited for three hours before he could get his order in, and 
then he did not receive the goods, though he had to pay cash 
in advance. The orders, however, were guaranteed. All 
this time men were coming in daily, many of whom, in the 
rush and the difficulty of getting over the passes, had thrown 
away their provisions or sold them at Dyea or Skagway, ex- 
pecting to stock up at Dawson. 

The day before the steamer left Dawson, the North 
American Transportation and Trading Company closed its 
doors. A notice was posted announcing that nothing would 
pass over its counters until the arrival of another steamer 
with supplies. 

But the days passed and no steamer came. The people 
eagerly watched the river, hoping to hear the familiar 


sound of tlie whistle announcing one of the little steamers, 
and to see it come around the bend of the stream, but they 
waited in vain. 

About the middle of August the two companies had a 
conference and they estimated that there were about five 
thousand five hundred people then in the Klondike district, 
a large number of whom were wholly without outfits and 
unprepared for the winter. The North American Com- 
pany had four hundred paid orders unfilled, and no pro- 
visions there with which to fill them. The Commercial 
Company had about five hundred paid orders, one-third of 
which had been filled, and there was enough on hand to fill 
about fifty more. Plenty of provisions, they said, were 
down the river, but the water was very low. They did not 
know then that the boats were stuck below Fort Yukon, and 
could not possibly get up. At the Alaska Commercial 
Company's office a crowd sometimes numbering fifty was 
daily lined up in front of the doors, begging for an ()])])or- 
tunity to purchase sustinence for themselves and their part- 
ners at the mines. As fast as one man was waited on, the 
doors were unlocked and another admitted. Then the click 
of the locks would be heard, bolts would slide to \)\aco to 
prevent a raid from the desperate men, and a sack of flour 
with a few pounds of bacon would be doled out. T^To one 
could secure much more than enough to sustain life for a 
few weeks. To those who were preparing to leave, food 
enough was given to last them over the trail to salt water, 
if everything went well. Everything possible was being 
done to get people to leave. 

During the first two weeks in September several at- 
tempts were made by no less than four steamers to cross the 
1)ars abovf^ Fort Yukon. They failed sim|)ly because it is 

480 CAPTAIN Hanson's fruitless errand 

impossible to get a three-foot steamer over a twenty-two-incli 
bar, that being the depth as measured. Even had they 
gotten over the bar the situation would not have been 
greatly improved, for they were carrying in men who would 
need most of the provisions they had aboard. 

Captain Hanson went down from Dawson on a steam 
barge expecting to pick up the barge of another steamer, 
and on his arrival at Fort iTukon he loaded his own 
barge with a cargo. He made the most persistent at- 
tempts to get over the bar so as to return, but failed. 
Half the cargo was removed for a second attempt, but that 
failed. Then he started with no load at all, but that time 
also failed, so uncertain are these bars in the bed of the 
Yukon. His steamer drew but twenty-four inches. 

Having thus failed to return with an empty boat, the 
captain deemed it his duty to return to Dawson and inform 
the i^eople of the situation. He left the fort in a patched 
bark canoe, and the next night was obliged to send Indians 
back with the following message: 

" The bottom dropped out of canoe and only my shoul- 
ders are dry. I am at the cache twenty-eight miles above 
Fort Yukon. Get another squaw canoe and send it up as 
soon as you can." 

There was no other canoe to be had, so an arrangement 
was made w^ith two fellows who were going up the Yukon 
to pick Hanson up. 

Day after day the people at Dawson watched the river 
for the steamers wdiicli they thought must surely come. 
The toot of a steamboat whistle w^ould have brought the 
whole population to the river bank, eager to welcome the 
arrival of the much-needed supplies. The river, which had 
frozen over a little once, opened again, and many w^ondered 
what was the trouble. 


On September 26tli Captain Hanson arrived in his In- 
dian canoe, and told the people that it wonld be an impos- 
sibility for the boats to get up before the river closed for 
good. Then the situation dawned upon them in all its ap- 
palling reality. 

Men who had been exulting in their success, and were 
counting upon returning in the spring with sacks of gold, 
suddenly realized that to remain till then they must run the 
risk of starvation. In the saloons, which were the public 
resorts, men congregated and talked over the situation. 
There was whisky enough. Large as was the consumption, 
there was the fact that a full winter's supply of liquor had 
l)een brouglit in somehow, but not half enough food. 

Among the more industrious miners who wished to stay 
and work their claims the disadvantage of having so many 
non-producers in the place was very apparent, and there 
was a feeling that such should go, if any. Three or four 
liundred gamblers and sporting men had come in during the 
summer, and some advocated driving them out and dividing 
the provisions equally among the workers. The thirty 
mounted police at Dawson, who were practically without 
food for the winter, were said to be openly in favor of such 
a step. 

Up to the first of September the new arrivals had aver- 
aged from three to twenty per day, and there seemed to be 
every prospect that this rate would be continued far into the 
winter. The old miners, and those used to the Yukon win- 
ters, began to appreciate the dangers of the coming situa- 
tion. When the river rose a little, winter was settling 
down, and doubts were entertained as to the possibility of 
more boats reaching Dawson. Tlicrf were at least three 
hundred men working in the gulches, and in (lie hills were 


several prospectors who knew nothing of the situation, and 
wonhl not till thev came in for provisions. They were de- 
pending- on the company stores for supplies. 

The situation became the great subject of discussion in 
the city of cabins and tents. It was evident that a large 
number, even a thousand, could winter safely at Circle City, 
four hundred miles below, for to that place they could draw 
their supplies from Fort Yukon by dog teams. There were 
at least five hundred people who intended going down the 
river to St. Michael, and from there home, but when that 
avenue was closed earlier than expected by the freezing of 
the river, some other steps had to be taken, for some of these 
had already sold off their stock of provisions and could not 
buy them back. 

There was considerable complaint that the trading com- 
panies had allowed whisky to take too large a place in the 
cargoes of their Yukon boats, and there was no doubt as to 
the large quantity brought in, but there ^vould have been 
serious complaints in various quarters had this failed to ar- 
rive. Had the river permitted the boats to come up there 
would have been provisions enough for the people to have 
worked through the winter somehoAv. 

It was estimated that during the summer there had been 
brought to Dawson about eighteen hundred tons of food, 
clothing, and other merchandise. Meanwhile, nearly every 
one on Circle City, Forty Mile, and Fort Cudahy had come 
to Dawson. It was estimated that there were something like 
six thousand people in the city and about the adjacent coun- 
try who expected to depend upon Dawson for supplies. 
Boats were arriving at the rate of five a day, and each aver- 
aged about three passengers. jSTot more than one in ten of 
these parties carried provisions enough to keep them through 
the winter. 


At Fort Yukon, about three hundred and twenty-five 
miles from Dawson, there was about six hundred tons of 
provisions. The question was a very simple one. As 
" grub " could not be brought to Dawson for everybody, 
some of us must go down to Fort Yukon for it, or go out by 
the coast and winter in the United States. 

Captain Hanson gathered the miners together and made 
a short speech to the effect that it would be vain to hope for 
the arrival of the river vessels, and that his company had 
done the best it could to supply the increased number of 
mine-owners, but that there were still more than two hun- 
dred and fifty unfilled orders on their books. All he could 
do was to advise people to go to Fort Yukon, where there was 
plenty of food, and live through the winter. He told them 
they could find employment there cutting cord WQod for the 
use of the steamers next year. He had, he said, done all he 
could to relieve the situation, and had it not been for the 
thousand people who had rushed in without sufficient sup- 
plies all would have been well. 

The situation as regards the other company was as bad, 
or worse. Indeed, the company, in anticipation of the ar- 
rival of the boats, had taken a lot of orders, and with them 
the miners' money, and when the time came they could not 
be filled. There was much grumbling. Some spread the 
idea that the company had a good stock of provisions, but 
were holding off for speculation, and the warehouse was 
threatened for a time. Only the fear of the Canadian 
police prevented an attack upon it. But it became evident 
that the companies had no stores to speak of. The only 
thing that could possibly be bought Avas sugar, baking- 
powder, spices, and a little dried fruit. 

Major Davis, in command of the police, said: '' Tn- 


stances have occurred in this territory before when supplies 
ran short, and it was necessary to form police and civic com- 
munities to seize all provisions in camp and issne weekly 
rations. It was done at Forty Mile post two years ago. 
Tlie necessity for similar action is beginning to be apparent 
in this case, and I wonld not be surprised to see an uprising, 
and the non-producers ordered to leave the camp and go 
down the river to Fort Yukon, where there is plenty of grub, 
and the provisions in this camp seized and distributed. My 
force is destitute of winter supplies." 

Apparently, it would have required only an uprising of 
this sort to have secured the co-operation of the police. An- 
other unpleasant phase of the situation consisted in the lack 
of dogs, and provisions for them. Any one would have 
said, to have seen the swarms of dogs which were always a 
feature of Dawson, that there were altogether too many for 
a camp facing starvation, but these dogs were kept busy 
most of the time going to and from the mines, dragging 
slabs for the fires to thaw the frozen ground, and logs to 
build miners' cabins. And when it became evident that 
there would have to be an exodus on accoimt of the food 
situation, dogs were w^orth their weight in gold. 

To add to the complications, a good many of the mine- 
owners were deeply in debt for claims they had purchased, 
the obligations, which bore an enormous rate of interest, 
falling due the next May or June. They had leased some 
of their claims on lays, and they were quietly falling back 
and waiting for the lessees to dig the gold out to liquidate 
their indebtedness by the time it became due. The men 
on lays, unless they had been so fortunate as to provide a 
sufficient stock of provisions, were in time compelled to 
throw up their profitable contracts and run with others for 


food. This left some mine-owners in a very threatening 
position, for they might have to turn the property back to 
the mortgagees. 

September 13th a large number of the owners held a 
secret meeting at the junction of Eldorado and Bonanza 
creeks, and promulgated a notice to the effect that after 
October 1st, and to June 1st, the wages for miners would be 
one dollar an hour, instead of one dollar and fifty cents. 
But in less than twenty-four hours the situation changed, 
for the men who had food could almost dictate their wages 
and the owners were glad to get them at fifteen dollars a 
day. There was the possibility that they might have to 
pay more. 



A Great Day in Dawson — Drawing Lots to Determine WTio Should 
Go — The Restaurants All Closed — Effort to Go Up the River 
Thirty-five Miles in Seven Days — The Party Finally Returns — 
People Pouring in While Others Were Pouring out — Arriving 
With Worthless Outfits or None at All — Swept By Dawson in the 
Running Ice — Petty Larceny Becomes Frequent — Food Scarce at 
Circle City — Men Arrive from Circle City Badly Frozen — Suffer- 
ing on the River — Exiles Badly Frozen — Sad Fate of Y'oung 
Anderson — Wounded, His Friends Dragged Him on a Rude 
Sled — Dying within Sight of Circle City — Thawing an Arctic 
Grave — The Funeral — Extracts from His Diary — Strong Miners 
Weep — The Scarcity of Supplies — A Restaurant Price List — A 
Fresh Supply of Caribou Meat — Curtailing the Work on the 
Mines — Those Left Pull Through. 

THAT was a great day at. Dawson when the miners 
fully realized the situation and immediately began 
to make their calculations for the wdnter. After 
the government officials had posted their bulletin warning 
the miners to get out of the country if they valued their 
lives, many of the men pooled what provisions they had and 
drew lots to decide who were to remain for the winter and 
who were to attempt the trip to Fort Yukon or the coast. 

It was a question which were taking the greatest risks, 
those who remained prepared to spend several months on 



short rations, or those who faced the hard thirty-days trip 
with just enough provisions to last them if not delayed, for 
those to whose lot it fell to leave the country were grub- 
staked for the trip. In this way the population was thinned 
out Some who had to go started for Fort Yukon, and 
others for the coast. Later, others started out for Fort 
Yukon, hoping to get back to Dawson with supplies. 

The exodus was stimulated by two facts, the first being 
that there might be a famine if all stayed, and the second, 
that those who had provisions, and at the same time had 
claims, could sell their provisions at greatly advanced prices 
to those who wished to stay and work. Thus they were in- 
sured a profit on what they could bring in on their return, 
and a profit from the working of their claims while they 
were out. 

The restaurants all closed in the fall, though one ran on 
for several days on a supply of beefsteak which sold at two 
dollars and fifty cents a meal, and the meals were not large. 
A man with a truck load of potatoes, flour, and bacon couhl 
have bought a good interest in any of the rich chums of the 
richest streams. A little steamer named Kiii]:iil\ which 
was to run up to the Felly River where the Dalton trail 
begins, was called into service by men who oifered as high 
as two hundred and fifty dollars to be taken aboard for her 
journey of one hundred and seventy-five miles. She was 
as crazy a craft as there was on the Yukon, about fifty feet 
long, and of thirty horse-power only. She was old, rickety, 
and pretty much broken down. She had just before made 
two trips up to the Felly, taking over eight days at eacli trip. 
Ordinarily, one would not have cared to make a sliorl I rip 
on her in smooth water, yet tlicre were severiil iiicii wlio 
actually wanted to pay a big price for lier to hike licr down 


the Yukon to St. Michael. They were persuaded from this 
foolhardy undertaking, and so they obtained her for the trip 
u]) the river to Selkirk, expecting to take the trail there. 

She left with about fifteen passengers, and in a few days 
back they came to Dawson. They had spent seven days on 
the steamer and had gone only thirty-five miles. Ilcr 
machinery broke down from one to three times a day, and 
she had a faculty, strong in any Yukon steamer, for con- 
stantly running aground. 

On one occasion, but apparently through mismanage- 
ment, she was driven head-on to a rocky shore where her 
bow was violently torn away and her frame severely shaken. 
But for the double protection in her bows she surely would 
have sunk. At the end of the seventh day, suiTounded by 
an ice pack, the trip was given up and they returned. The 
only thing left was to drift down the river, or, if wanting to 
get out of the country entirely, to pole up the stream with 
its freezing waters and floating ice. ]\[any Avho had had ex- 
perience on the stream, and had a few provisions, preferred 
to wait and make the trip after the river Avas thoroughly 
frozen and the snow, wdiicli now was falling, had grown 

It would have been an amusing scene, had it not savored 
so much of the pathetic, to watch the people who were pour- 
ing into Dawson from the trail, while others were pour- 
ing out the same way. These people had suffered all man- 
ner of hardships on the journey, and many of them, in their 
haste to get over, had disposed of their outfits. Their im- 
pression seemed to be that so long as wages were fifteen dol- 
lars a day, they could not want for anythtng. It was some 
time before they could be made to understand the peculiar 
difficulties of the situation. They could not get over the 


impression that where there was so much gold there must 
be enough to eat. 

It is a pitiable situation when men are huddled together 
in a little place in the Arctic regions, in need of food, offer- 
ing any amount of money for it, and unable to get it because 
there is no chance for any to come into the country for six 
or eight months. 

Few of those who came in had packed their outfits cor- 
rectly. Each month's supplies should be put up separately 
and labeled, and then if one loses a part of his supplies the 
variety is not sacrified. Many lost their flour and saved 
their baking-powder, or vice versa. Provisions should be 
put in water-tight sacks of not over fifty pounds each. The 
covering should be made of good ducking, capable of being 
handled roughly, of standing out in the rain, if necessary, 
and of not being torn by limbs, snags, and the like. Many 
a man reached the river only to find his beans damp, flour a 
pasty mass, and his dried fruit fit only to give to the all- 
devoimng dogs. 

Many boats, containing men who had been working for 
many days and enduring great hardships, came floating- 
down the river in the ice and were unable to make a landing. 
Once eight boats loaded with provisions, but with no pas- 
sengers, went floating by. The owners had doubtless left 
them to go ashore and camp for the night, and meanwhile 
the ice had broken and taken the boats down the river. Tt 
was useless to try to reach the boats at that time. 

Matters assumed a very serious aspect by the middle of 

October. There were over a thousand people, including 

women and children, living in tents in Dawson, and they 

were arriving at the rate of seventy-five a day. Many of 

them had provisions enough to last them onlv a part of the 


winter. A heavy snow was falling, and beans, flour, bacon, 
and other provisions were selling from one dollar and 
twenty-five cents to one dollar and fifty cents a pound. 
The few head of cattle which Dalton had brought in over his 
trail only temporarily relieved the situation. 

Petty larceny began to be frequent in a place where but 
a little before a man could leave anything lying about with 
safety. But no one stole gold. People were stumbling 
over that and never thinking about it. They began to steal 
from caches. One man was detected in stealing from a 
cache and shot through the leg, but he was not a thief 
naturally. The food situation had made him desperate. 

Altogether about nine hundred people had left Dawson 
by the first of December, and as nine-tenths of these had 
hardly more than three months' provisions, the situation at 
Dawson was considerably relieved. So many went down to 
Circle City or Fort Yukon that many began to fear that 
they Avould need all the provisions at the latter point, and 
that the spring supply for Dawson would therefore be late 
in coming up. When the heavy detachment reached Circle 
City the stock there at once became so short that most of 
them had to procure sleds and continue their journey, the 
river being frozen. The hundred or so people at Circle 
City were calculating to send to Fort Yukon for provisions. 

Joaquin Miller, the poet of the Sierras, who had been 
among the summer arrivals, reached Dawson from Circle 
City on December 4th, very badly frozen, having lost a part 
of the great toe of his left foot, his left ear sloughing off, 
and both cheeks frozen. He had left Circle City wnth a 
party thirty-five days before without dogs, as there were 
none left there. They worked along all right till tliey 
reached Forty Mile, where they encountered a blizzard. 


From that place they endured all manner of hardships. 
Circle City was not a bed of roses for the miners there. 

Reports, he said, had reached Circle City of miners 
being frozen in between Dawson and that place. One 
miner was brought in so badly frozen that he had to have 
his feet amputated. Such was the fate of some of those 
who had left Dawson just before the winter's fury set in. 

Among those who had started down the river in boats 
was a young man named Anderson, who belonged in Brook- 
lyn, N. Y. On the way down, and when seventy miles 
from the nearest habitation, he accidentally shot himself in 
the abdomen. He pushed on with grim determination, 
though suffering great agony, but when thirty miles from 
Circle City a cold snap came on and froze the river. The 
party with him saw that it was necessary to abandon the 
boat, and so they rigged up a rough sled and started to pull 
the wounded man over the ice. It was terribly cold. 

Day by day his strength failed, and dreary were the 
camps they made on the frozen shores of the river. His 
two companions toiled bravely on, but he kept sinking 
lower and lower, and when almost within sight of their 
destination he passed away. Two hours later they drew 
the body into Circle City on the rude sled. 

Out in the little cemetery was piled a heap of wood, 
and soon it was blazing fiercely in the Arctic winds; for 
graves must be dug here — if they are dug at all — as gold 
is mined, by thawing the ground. As night settled down 
the glowing coals shone out brightly in the darkness. More 
wood was heaped on, and little by little the grave was sunk 
in the icy soil. 

Then came the burial. There was no minister, no choir, 
no melodious anthem, no words that told of the Christian's 


hope in a glorious resuiTection. Rough miners carried the 
body to its last resting place, and as they stood there rev- 
erently some extracts from the young man's diary were 
read. He had kept it almost to the last moment, and there 
were many references to his mother, to his home, and his 
hardships, and between the lines could be read a record 
of the indomitable courage and the filial love of the man 
who had sought his fortune on the Yukon. 

Strong miners, muffled in their heavy winter coats, stood 
\vith tears in their eyes while the words were read, and then 
the frozen clods were shoveled into the icy grave. There 
are other graves on the Yukon — many others. And there 
are dead without graves. 

There was a party of two or three hundred between 
Forty Mile and Circle City when the river suddenly froze, 
and they were compelled to abandon their boats and push 
on, almost wholly unprepared for the hardships of such a 
journey. Some of them suffered severely. Ten or a dozen 
women were subjected to the ordeal of losing their boats 
and taking the long, wearisome tramp to Circle City in the 
biting cold. 

The prices of all supplies continued to rise till they were 
hardly within the reach of those who had not rich gold 
mines to depend upon. Flour was wortb from seventy-five 
dollars to one hundred dollars for fifty-pound sacks; beans, 
one dollar and fifty cents a pound; candles, one dollar and 
fifty cents each, and very few of them at that; fresh fish, 
one dollar and twenty-five cents a pound, and very scarce. 
Cooking utensils, too, were none too plentiful, men satisfy- 
ing themselves with pieces of tin for frying pans and old tin 
cans were in demand as coffee pots and for other cooking 



Coifee, tea, or chocolate. 




Boston baked beans, , 


Pie and cake. 



This was the sign hanging over the counter of one of the 

Dawson restaurants early in December : 

Ham and Eggs, . . . 5.00 

Porterhouse steak, . . 5.00 
Cove oysters fried, and ham 

and eggs, , . . 9.00 

In the latter part of November a large band of caribou 
crossed the Yukon a few miles below Dawson in the migra- 
tion from the headwaters of the White and Copper rivers, 
and Dawson hunters went out and killed about fifty head. 
This supply of meat was a great relief, and it sold at good 
figures. Of course meat can be kept in prime condition all 
winter in such a climate. Though game was scarce it could 
be found in small quantities if hunted for, and men who 
were hungry would take their guns and start on hunting- 
expeditions, seldom, however, going far from camp. 

The inevitable result of the scarcity of food and the 
exodus of people was to delay work in the mines. It was 
useless for owners to attempt to work their shafts unless 
they oould secure provisions, and there were many cases 
where men who had begun to take out of their shafts many 
hundred dollars a day, on coming down to Dawson and find- 
ing that their bags of gold could not buy the ordinary ijeces- 
sities of life, at once departed either for the coast or for 
points down the river. The newcomers who had reached 
the city with barely enough provisions to feed a canary bird 
were, of course, of no use in the mines. But the exodus 
was so great that those remaining were left with a fair 
chance of pulling through, which is about all any one can 
expect to do on the Yukon during the winter. From time 
to time some little additions in the way of meat were made to 
the supply. 



A Rival to Dawsou and the Klondike — American Territory Preferable 
— Old MuDOok and Little Munook — Taking a Fortune from a 
Small Hole — Stream Prospected Before — The First Excitement — 
Stampedes from the Arriving Steamboats — Beginnings of Ram- 
part City — Arrival of the Hamilton — Crew Stampedes and Takes 
the Knives and Forks — A Literary Woman's Rush for a Claim — 
Settling in the New Camp — High Prices for Claims — Taking 
out $1,500 in Five Days — The Fever of Speculation — Wealth of 
a Man with a House and Lot — High Price of Timber — The 
Rough Trails — Fatal Experience of Two Yale Graduates — 
Spending the First Night on Hoosier Creek — Taking Food for 
Only One Day— A Terrible Night— Tucker Falls Exhausted — 
Running for Help — Secured at Last — Returning to Find His 
Companion Dead — Buried in the Wild Gulch — Situation of 
Munook — High Value of Its Gold. 

OXE important result of the inability of the river 
steamboats to reach Dawson, and the consequent 
shortage of provisions there, was to turn the at- 
tention of gold-seekers to ]\Innook Creek, on the lower 
Yukon. Those who could not reach Dawson from St. 
]\richael, and those who, having' reached it from the coast, 
could not stay but went down the river, were naturally at- 
tracted to the new region. Xow that public attention has 
been turned towards the Yukon valley, the sudden rise of 
new mining camps and new cities may be expected, for the 


OLD munook's find 497 

country has a wealtli of gold-bearing streams wliicli have 
never been properly prospected, and many promising ones 
have never even been explored. While the sudden rise of 
Dawson was phenomenal, it soon had a dangerous rival, and 
that on American territory. 

It is needless to say that experienced miners will prefer 
gold-bearing streams on American territory if they can be 
found of a richness to compare with the Klondike, If the 
Dominion government insists on the restrictions she has 
ordained, mines on American territory, which are consider- 
ably less rich than those in the Klondike, will prove more 
attractive, for they will yield larger net returns. In view 
of these facts, the rise of Kampart City in the vicinity of 
the Lower Ramparts of the Yukon in the fall of 1897 can 
occasion no sui'prise, and it would not be strange if the pre- 
dictions made as to its rivaling Dawson should be quickly 

An old Indian by the name of Munook, a Russian half- 
breed, found large quantities of gold on the creek which 
now bears his name some time in August, 1896. Accord- 
ing to the story on the river, some Indians had informed 
Munook that they had seen gold on a branch of the creek, 
and with his son he started in. In a short time he had taken 
out three thousand dollars' worth of gold from a hole eight 
feet square and fifteen feet deep. The stream bad Ix^en 
prospected in a superficial way for years, and while gold 
was always found, it had not been in sufficient quantities, 
for the conditions were the same here as in other Alaskan 
fields. A. layer of muck covers the gravel from a few 
inches to two or three feet in thickness; in winter it is like 
adamant, and in the summer like axle grease that lias been 
exposed to the sun. 


Old Munook and his son worked on quietly, taking out 
considerable gold, but nothing was known about it by ex- 
l>crienced miners till the boats began to run on the river in 
the spring of 1897. The evident advantages of the situa- 
tion lay in its nearness to the base of supplies, and several 
miners made their way up the creeks and at once struck 
good pay-dirt on Little Munook and another tributary which 
was called Hunter Creek. 

The first excitement was when a steamboat loaded with 
people bound for Dawson reached the mouth of Munook 
Creek. Miners there were looking for supplies, and when 
they told what they had found, the excitement was so gi'eat 
that many of the passengers bolted for the mountains at 
once, also many of the crew. The principal creeks were 
staked for some distance, for the law which the miners had 
instituted allowed claims of one thousand feet in length, 
and from five hundred to a thousand feet in width, accord- 
ing to the nature of the valley. 

Observing that as many as a hundred men would winter 
there, the Alaska Commercial Company made preparations 
to supply them with food. But when the next steamboat 
came up there was another st-ampede, some fresh discoveries 
having been made, and so many of the crew left the boat, 
carrying away the knives and forks, that ,the passengers left 
were compelled to resort to their fingers in eating. On 
bed-rock two and four dollars to the pan had been dis- 
covered, and nuggets worth ten and twelve dollars had been 
taken out. The miners were at work clearing up a sightly 
place high up from the river for a town site, and in hardly 
any time there was a town of tents there. The Commercial 
Company began building its log warehouse, and everything 
promised to thrive. "WTien the steamer Hamilton, after 


continuing on her way up the river, went aground a short 
distance from the new city, many more of the men came 
down decided to settle in the new camp. Many claims were 
staked off quite near the city, but little could be done except 
at bar diggings before winter came. 

By the first of September the discovery claim on Little 
Munook had sold for five thousand dollars, and Rampart 
City was a cluster of tents on the hillsides, but the Com- 
mercial Company were finishing up their building and the 
newcomers were busy putting up log cabins. The popula- 
tion was then three hundred and increasing with every boat 
that came up the river. Ten days later all figures and 
values had quadrupled. One claim on Little Munook was 
held at fifty thousand dollars, for the owner of the adjacent 
claim had taken out one thousand five hundred dollars in 
five days, and had not reached bed-rock. The news spread, 
and in a little time the recorder had taken in over two hun- 
dred dollars in registering claims, and people were clamber- 
ing over the hills in every direction. A literary woman 
from the Pacific coast who had started for the Klondike 
was infected by the excitement, jumped oif the boat when it 
reached Rampart City, and rushed for a claim, taking the 
trail like a man, and sleeping on the ground with her 
blankets wrapped about her. 

Gradually the population approached a thousand, and 
the fever of speculation was rife. Real estate offices were 
opened and the scenes enacted at Dawson a little earlier were 
repeated. Had there been iio KloiKlikc, which bad become 
a sort of shibboleth on every one's lips, the discoveries on 
Munook would have been enough to have created a rush 
from the States, for the creeks and gidclics are uniiiislak- 
aldy rich. On one claiiu two thousand dollars were taken 


out while siiikiiic; to bed-rock. On another, two men took 
out six huiuh-ed dollars in six days, and the top gravel 
seemed to be full as rich as that in the Klondike district, ac- 
cording to reports of men who had had some experience in 
both places. 

Xone of those who left the United States later than the 
first of August to go by the water route arrived at Dawson 
City, but they were frozen in all along the river. Those 
who reached Munook Creek, however, were fortunate. By 
the last of September, a man who owned a house and lot in 
Kampart City counted himself worth two thousand dollars. 
Every fresh boatload rushed up the creeks to stake out 
claims, and many large transactions took place. By Octo- 
ber the new town had a population of over one thousand 
souls, including several w'omen. Lots w'ere selling for as 
high as one thousand two hundred dollars, and any kind of 
a cabin for eight hundred dollars. The Indians were paid 
nine dollars a day and board for building cabins, while the 
wages of men in the mines ruled at iifteen dollars a day. 
The real estate boom rather outstripped that of the previous 
year at Dawson. The value of lots and buildings sometimes 
increased tenfold in a very few hours. The reason for the 
excessive price for building is that there is no wood to speak 
of nearer than eighty miles. 

The trails over the mountains to the creeks were no ex- 
ception to such routes in other mining regions. Indeed, if 
anything, they were a little worse, for the country had not 
been so traversed by Indians. A mile seemed as long as 
five miles in any ordinary country. It was a wild and pre- 
cipitous region, and in going from one creek to another it 
was necessary to cross great divides, tearing through the 
brush or stumbling over niggerheads. Unfortunately, as 


at other places of mining excitement, people rushed in with- 
out any adequate idea of what they were to encounter, and 
without sufficiently providing for such a journey. Only a 
dozen miles or so over the hills seemed easy. 

One September morning three young men started for 
Hoosier Creek, about twenty miles away, to locate claims. 
Their names were H. B. Tucker of Troy, IST. Y., J. P. Powell 
of New York city, and George M. Reed of Boston. It was 
raining when they set out and growing colder, and the trails 
were getting worse every hour. After traveling about 
seven miles Reed sprained his leg, and, finding that he would 
be unable to continue the trip, he left the party and made 
his way back to town. 

Tucker and Powell proceeded on their way and reached 
a cabin at the mouth of Hoosier Creek, and spent the night 
there. They were wet through, and as there was no stove in 
the cabin they dried themselves as best they could before 
an open fire at the door of the cabin. Friday morning they 
started for the head of the creek. They left their blankets 
and all their food, except barely enough for one day, hav- 
ing been told that they could make the trip and get back to 
the cabin by evening. The cold rain continued all day. 
The creek became very much swollen, and traveling up the 
gulch, wading through icy waters, and wandering through 
the swamps and brush was a terrible undertaking, especially 
for men without experience in the country aiul Avithont 
knowledge of the conditions. The two finally made tlicir 
way to the headwaters of the creek and staked their claims, 
but by that time it was night and they knew it would be ut- 
terly impossible to make their way back through the dark- 

When they had started in the morning Tnckor hnd ])iit 


the day's provisions in liis liantlkcreluef, and he lost tliem 
while wading- the creek. All they had left was four hard- 
tacks and a piece of chocolate to divide between them. 
Most of this they had eaten during the day. 

These two exhausted men had a terrible night to face in 
that wild gulch with the cold rain pouring steadily down on 
them, without food, without shelter, without blankets or 
covering of any kind except their soaked and half-frozen 
clothes. About tw^o o'clock in the morning the rain turned 
to snow, and by dawn the ground was white. Tucker slept 
a little through pure exhaustion, but Powell was awake all 
night. As soon as light came, the latter urged Tucker to 
start dow^n the creek before the snow became so deep as to 
make walking impossible. Tucker made a heroic effort to 
respond to Powell's appeal, but after proceeding a little way 
his knees gave out and he fell. Powell put him on his feet 
and they started once more, but Tucker's strength was all 
gone and he fell again and again, and finally could go no 
further. He grew delirious and at last became unconscious, 

Powell, after doing everything in his power to get 
Tucker down the creek to shelter, found that it was im- 
possible, and at about seven o'clock, seeing that the only 
chance to save Tucker's life was to get assistance, he placed 
him in as comfortable a position as possible and started down 
the creek shouting for help and firing his revolver to attract 
attention. His hope was to find a party of friends who had 
talked of coming up Hoosier Creek that day. He was 
finally successful in his quest, but not till some hours had 
passed, and one of the party immediately started back with 
Powell to find Tucker, carrying food with them. They 
reached him about one o'clock, but they were too late. The 
poor fellow was dead. 


Marking the spot, tliey came down the creek to the 
cabin, where Powell rested that night, and made his way 
back to Rampart City the next day. A party set out to the 
place where Tucker died and he was buried there in the 
wild and lonely gulch, as it was impossible to bring his body 
in until the trail was in a better condition. 

Tucker was a graduate of Yale in 189-1, and his father is 
editor of the Troy Press. Powell was also a Yale graduate. 
The trouble in this case was that they miscalculated the dis- 
tance that they could travel in a day, and went utterly un- 
prepared to spend a night in the mountains. 

One may realize something of the dangers of traveling 
on Alaskan trails from incidents like these. Considering 
the number of people who have rushed in without any 
proper understanding of what tramping on these trails re- 
quires, it seems a miracle that so few have perished. Yet 
the death roll is by no means a short one. 

Munook Creek, which promises to be one of the richest 
gold fields in Alaska, runs into the Yukon about nine hun- 
dred miles below Dawson. It is situated below the bars 
which obstruct vessels, and if the rich prospects already 
found continue, its chances for development are very much 
greater than those of Dawson. There are a number of 
small creeks flowing into the Munook, and upon nearly all 
of them gold has been found near the surface. Even if 
it is less rich than the Klondike it may pay better, and cer- 
tainly people there will run less risk of starvation. 

The Munook gold which has been assayed has boon 
found to be of much greater fineness than that of the Klon- 
dike, which has proved something of a disappointment to 
those who have brought large quantities of Klondike gold 
to the mints. Munook gold yields about eighteen dollars 


to tlie ounce, while Klondike gold averages about sixteen 
dollars to the ounce. The difference on twenty-five pounds 
would buy a man a winter's outfit in Alaska. Taking into 
consideration the Canadian restrictions as to the size of 
claims, as to royalty, and customs taxes, together with this 
difference in the intrinsic value of the gold, a man in the 
Klondike would have to take out at least thirty per cent, 
more gold in weight than at Munook to net the same return, 
while living expenses at Munook should be much cheaper. 



Preparing for the Winter — Our Gold Dust — Returning to Dawson 
We Realize the Food Situation — We are Unable to Secure Pro- 
visions for the Winter — Selling Our Claims and Counting Our 
Fortune — Down or Up the River? — We Decide to Return for 
a Good Outfit — Dogs an Expensive Luxury — Encountering 
Wrecks — Difficulties at Lewis River — Picking up Tales of 
Hardship and Suffering — Hardships of a Man with Poor Dogs — 
A Young Man with Frozen Feet Left to Die in a Hut — A Young 
Woman Rescued from Death — Lashed to a Sled — We Arrive at 
the Cafion — A Cry from Joe — Into the Icy Rapids — Last of 
Poor Joe — I Sit Down and Cry — My Awful Predicament — Pro- 
visions, but Nothing Else — A Sad and Lonely Journey — A Tent 
Buried in the Snow — Saved! — " Got Any Grub ? " — Kicking the 
Dogs out of the Snow — Over the Chilkoot in a Blizzard — 
Homeward Bound — " Poor Joe ! " 

DURING the summer and fall of 1897, or wliile tlie 
events narrated in the preceding chapters were oc- 
curing, Joe and I did what we could on our Klon- 
dike claim, much time being spent in preparations for drift- 
ing the coming winter. Our spring clean-up, while not 
large, because we had been nimble to work as extensively 
as others, and because we had poor luck in finding the pay- 
streak and were compelled to sink several holes before strik- 
ing rich dirt, was still good enough to provide us with a 



ooiufortablc ainouiit of gold di;st. AVliile only the large for- 
tunes suddenly amassed by the few who had worked large 
fractions of their claims attracted attention, we, neverthe- 
less, congratulated ourselves upon our good fortune, know- 
ing that our money was in the ground and could be taken 
out, if we chose, in the winter. When we returned from 
our somewhat unpleasant trip to the Indian River district, 
we at once became aware of the situation as to the food 
supply at Dawson, and, as we had neglected to lay in pro- 
visions early, we realized that our hopes of a prosperous win- 
ter might be dashed to the ground. We hurried down to 
Dawson and found affairs as already described. It was im- 
possible to secure a full stock of provisions for the winter, 
but any one who would leave the country could get enough 
for the trip. To those who insisted upon staying a little 
was being doled out, with the understanding that when 
enough time had elapsed for its consumption another batch 
would be sold. The possibilities of speculating in food sup- 
plies were carefully guarded against. 

Joe and I reflected and consulted. We had experienced 
a touch of famine the previous winter when but a few people 
were in the Klondike, and we did not look forward with any 
degree of satisfaction to the possibility of something worse. 
It was necessary for us either to stay to hold down our 
claims, or to find some one who would work them on shares. 
It Avas easy enough to find among the eager newcomers men 
who would make such an arrangement, but as they had no 
provisions to depend upon, and knew scarcely anything 
about mining, they would be able to do little work. 

It so happened at that time that the excitement over the 
Indian River district was at a high point, and we had a good 
offer for our claims there and also the claim on Bonanza. 


Joe and I lit our pipes and thonght. There were many 
points in favor of the bird in the hand. 

" But there may be millions in those mines," said Joe. 

" Possibly," I replied. " We don't know about that, 
but we do know that there's a lot of frozen muck and gravel 
and hard work in them. And we know, too, that by next 
April we might be willing to trade one of them for a hun- 
dred of flour." 

We smoked and thought a little more, and concluded to 
take the bird in the hand. We reckoned that when we got 
the money we should have about twenty-five thousand dol- 
lars apiece. 

"We can afford to have poor luck for a year or two," I 
said to Joe. " And I don't feel as if we were selling our 
birthright, for there is plenty of gold to be found in Alaska ; 
better diggings, I'm thinking, than these British moose 
pastures, especially if the government concludes to take a 
large share of the profits." 

The next question was whether we should go down or up 
the river. Joe was inclined to take the former course, but 
as his claim in the Birch Creek district was being worked, 
and as we heard rumore that there was little food to be had at 
Circle City unless it was sledded from Fort Yukon, we de- 
cided that we would go out to the coast and in the spring 
bring in a big outfit. Outfits are always profitable, and we 
thought there was money in the scheme. 

But we were in no hurry, for we wished to wait till the 

ice had become solid and the trail a little packed. We got 

together our stove, tent blankets, and other necessities for 

the trip, and took life easy. So many small parties had 

been going out that dogs were extremely scarce. T]\v jiricc 

had started at one hundred and fiftv dollars, but lind <n<iii 


risen to two hundred dollars, and when we began to think 
about them they were worth about two hundred and fifty 
dollars. We smoked and thought again. 

"With good dogs we figured that we could reach the coast 
in about thirty days ; without them it w^ould take about forty 
under good conditions. But Alaskan travel is uncertain, 
with or without dogs. One thing, however, was certain; 
the dogs would eat up a good part of what they w^ould draw 
before they reached the coast unless we made remarkably 
good time, so we concluded to save our money, even if we 
lost some time, and draw the sleds oui-selves. 

So one morning late in Xovember we bade good-bye for 
a time to Dawson and the Klondike, and started for the 
coast in a blinding snow storm. The mercury bottles were 
frozen solid. The river was rougher than the rocky road 
to Dublin. It had frozen once, then broken up and frozen 
again so that it was all humps and bumps, and the only way 
to maintain a tolerably smooth course w^as to cross back and 
forth where the way seemed to open out best. In spite of 
every precaution the sleds were continually overturning 
while we were slipping and sprawling. Parties with dogs 
fared even worse. The dogs could go anywhere, but the 
sleds followed them sometimes right side up, but more often 
on one side. Many sleds were broken. Soon many of the 
dogs had badly lacerated feet, and in some cases they were 
frozen, so that we were rather glad we had concluded to de- 
pend upon ourselves, though the dog teams quickh' got 
ahead of us and others overtook us. 

All the way from Dawson to the mouth of the Pelly 
River the river was so rough that dogs were hardly able to 
haul more than enough to last them to the coast, and it was 
hard, cold drudgery for Joe and me. In some places the 


ice was piled fifteen feet high. All the way along we en- 
countered the wrecks of boats which had been abandoned 
when the river closed, the parties pushing on with only 
barely enough to keep them alive on the trail. 

We worked along slowly, and when we had gone a dozen 
miles it seemed as if we had gone a hundred. Men with 
frozen cheeks, noses, fingers, and feet were encountered, 
and occasionally one in a very bad fix, but we managed to 
get along very comfortably till we came to the Lewis Kiver. 

The current of this stream is so rapid, and the weather up 
to this time had been so mild, that it was only partly frozen 
over, and in many places it was full of rushing and crushing 
ice cakes. When I say mild weather I mean, of course, 
mild for Alaska. As a matter of fact, the mercury had not 
thawed for a couple of weeks. We speak of mild weather 
up there in the winter when it averages about fifty below 
zero. Wherever the ice jams were, the ice was piled in 
cakes as high as six-story buildings, sloping up gradually on 
one side and breaking off in sheer precipices on the other. 
It made it much easier traveling coming out than going in. 
The current setting down the river runs the ice in such a 
way that the slope is toward Dawson. In coming out the 
slope can be climbed first, and then the precipice can be 
descended, but in going in these precipices arc encountered 
face to face. 

The greatest hardships were endured here on this long 
stretch of country, both by those going out and by those 
who had bravely made the effort to reach Dawson. One 
could hear tales of suffering every day, but every one who 
was getting along fairly well had no time for the troubles 
of others, although in severe cases great kindness was 


There was one man who had started out early in a boat 
and had been compelled to return to Dawson, where he 
finally secured a dog team. At the foot of Lake Lebarge he 
slipped and fell and sprained his leg. He had plenty of 
provisions, but his team made poor time, and he was suf- 
fering great pain. lie offered good money to those who 
overtook him to pull him out, but they w^ere in too gi'eat 
a hurry to get out of the country themselves. 

Another young man had been left at Five Finger Eapids 
with both feet frozen. His companions were unable to help 
him along to the coast, and so left him as comfortable as 
they could, realizing what would be his fate. He sent 
messages to his friends in the East, and there he was left 
in a little hut with no one to care for him, except such 
passers-by as had their sympathy touched. He was finally 
taken care of by a poor family. In many camps we passed 
men were sick, and the prospects were that they could not 
survive the trials of a winter in such a place, sleeping on the 
snow with the thermometer sometimes as low as seventy 
degrees below zero. 

Joe and I, who, by spending a winter on the Klondike, 
had learned how to prepare for the cold weather and rough 
trails, worked our way along very well over the rough river, 
though in places the ice was so thin that we and others we 
encountered had narrow escapes from being plunged into 
the river. We heard of one man who, in crossing, had 
broken through and slid under the ice. Of course, that was 
the last of him in such a swift current. At Thirty Mile 
River it was necessary to make a portage, for the river was 
running too swift to freeze at all. The trail along the banks 
was a hard one, and we w^ere constantly in danger of sliding 
off into the river. 

A pair of KoUl-scekers on their wuy tcj tlie Gold Fields. 


After many trials we reached White Horse Kapids, 
camping on a hill near by. The traveling on the lakes was 
very good, but it was a hard climb up that hill. Much of 
the time we had to crawl on our hands and knees while drae;- 
ging our sleds, and a careless move would have sent us down 
into the river. 

AVhen we arrived there preparations were being made to 
take back to Skagway a young woman who was ver}^ ill. 
She had been rescued from almost certain death at a camp 
near Lake Lebarge. She had been pushing toward Daw- 
son with a party, and, early in ISTovember, when going over 
the last hill at Miles Cafion, she slipped and wrenched her 
right knee. A stretcher was made for her and the party 
pushed on to Lake Lebarge, where they finally made camp, 
but the limb, without medical attendance, grew rapidly 
worse, and she succumbed to a low rheumatic fever. Her 
life was despaired of. Finally, she was sent back to a camp 
at the White Horse Rapids, where a doctor was at last found 
who put the knee in a plaster cast. After a time she started 
for Skagway lashed to a sled drawn by five dogs — a ride of 
one hundred and eighty-five miles, over hills and down val- 
leys, and through blizzards! 

A little incident of the trail! A little chapter in the 
history of gold-seeking in Alaska! 

Another true story of the Dyea trail is that of the In- 
dian mother who was found kneeling in the snow, bared al- 
most to the skin and frozen stiff. But in lier rigid arms, 
wrapped in fold upon fold of thi(d< furs, slie lield a liltle 
child, warm and safe. The mother had given her life for 
her child — only a poor Indian woman, but witli as fine an 
instinct of protective motherhood as that exemplified by any 
of a superior race. 


As we were lying on a pile of boughs in our tent tliat 
night, with our wet feet shoved up near the red hot stove, 
Joe said : 

" William, a fellow's life ain't worth much till he gets 
out of a place like this." 

I gave him a quick glance to see if he were looking well, 
and saw that he was, and, as he was always sober-minded, I 
thought nothing more about his remark. 

" You know what you told me when we arranged in 
Colorado to come to Alaska," I said. 

" Yes, it takes grit, but we have made pretty well for a 
two yeare roughing it, and I was just thinking that if I ever 
got out of here I would not be fool enough to return. 
Colorado is good enough for me. You too. We've got a 
snug sum, and what we need now is to get it out with our 

He said no more and we were soon asleep. The next 
day we pushed on toward the canon. All the way along 
the rapid river there were open places from which a fine 
mist came, which quickly settled as frost upon everything. 
It was the most picturesque spot I ever saw. The rapids 
were inspiring in their grandness, seething and rushing 
along between the fantastically sliaped ice that had gathered 
along the banks. Over this ice we made ,our way carefully, 
though not without some fear that it would break vdtli us 
and that we should be whirled off down the boiling stream, 
but after about three miles of it we came safely to the 

" There's where I sailed out on the bottom of the Tar 
Stater," I said to Joe, as we looked up between the bluffs. 

"Well, things did look blue that day, didn't they? 
But the question now is, which course shall we take here ? " 


There were two routes wliicli we could take. One led 
up a hill about a hundred feet high and almost as steep as 
the side of a barn, and then along the top of the bluff to the 
other end. The other was through the canon on the ice 
which had formed along the edge of the rocks. The first 
meant packing on our backs most of the stuff we had, and in 
the condition of the trail it would take all day to do it. By- 
taking the latter course we could go through in a few 
minutes — if the ice would hold. We saw by the tracks 
that numerous dog teams had already gone through, and 
there seemed to be no reason why we should not at least 
make the attempt. 

So we started in. The waters were roaring with that 
thunder tone which brought vividly back to me my four- 
minutes trip of ^ few months before, and along the walls 
was an uneven shelf of ice which the dashing spray had 
formed. It seemed sufficiently wide and strong at first, but 
it gradually narrowed and at times brought us very near the 
angry water. Joe was ahead and picking his way very 
carefully. Finally, he came to a place where the shelf of 
ice was very slanting and he stepped to the outside edge so 
as to push the sled along and steady it, to prevent it from 
sliding into the water. 

I was preparing to do the same thing when I heard a 
sharp cry from Joe, and, looking up, I saw hi^n slip, then 
slide over the edge of the shelf into the raging rapids. TTis 
hand clutched the rope of the sled, and, quick as n (lasli, \ 
sprang forward to catch it. But it. was too late. Over 
went the sled into the misty foam and sank at once, for it 
was heavily loaded. 

As T stood almost rigid with fright T saw Joe struggling 
bravely in the waters, but being swept rapidly down, and 


I knew he was no swimmer. I started and ran, but jnst 
then lie was drawn under the ice shelf, and that was the 
last I saw of Joe. The whole thing was over almost in an 

OYeriX)wered with horror and grief, I dropped down 
upon the ice in the midst of that roaring canon and cried 
like a child. 

Poor Joe ! He was a brave, good, generous fellow, with 
a heart strong, vet tender. How he had worked and suf- 
fered to save my life that wild night on Indian River ! And 
now he was taken awav from me so quickly that I could not 
even throw out a helping hand. Fate had marked that 
canon as a fatal place for Joe and me. We had for years 
worked together, suffered together, and helped each other, 
and always without any real disagreements. And that 
awful caiion had swallowed him almost in an instant; and I 
could not even hope to find his poor body to raise over it in 
that wild region some nide memorial to a noble friend. 

Poor Joe ! Just as he had with strenuous effort wrested 
a little fortune from the unfriendly soil, and was hopefully 
looking f onvard to a life of happier conditions under a more 
genial sun, he was snatched away by Death, — dragged 
down to an icy grave where the wild waters lash themselve'fe 
in a continual fury and their savage tumult is unceasing. 
And the precious dust, for which he had risked and endured 
so much — that, too, had become the prey of that awful, 
insatiate force that has claimed many a life, and waits to 
claim yet more. 

I sat for a long time bewildered, mourning with all my 
heart for the poor fellow, and then walked back to my sled, 
which had kept safely to the shelf. Then for the first time 
I realized my own serious predicament. I was left with tlie 


provisions, but with no tent, no stove, no cooking utensils, 
and only two blankets. I was tempted to jump into the 
rapids and follow Joe, for I knew I should freeze unless I 
could fall in with another party who could give me shelter 
and warmth. I decided to push on through the canon, 
realizing that I should not be much worse off if I also made 
a misstep and fell in. 

That was a sad and lonely journey for me through those 
mountain gorges. I stopped for nothing, not even lunch, 
for I had nothing with which to build a fire, as I had no dry 
splinters. In the afternoon a terrific snow storm came on 
and fell so rapidly that it soon obliterated the trail. To go 
on meant certain death; to attempt to camp in that storm 
with but two blankets to protect me meant, probably, the 
same thing. But the latter course offered the only chance 
of safety. So, as I slowly waded along, I looked about for 
a sheltered spot. Turning the edge of a mountain which 
came down to the winding river I uttered a cry of joy. 
There, in a nook, was a little tent half buried in snow. I 
hurried on, and, when near, shouted loudly, but no one ap- 
peared. 0]>ening the tent, a breath of warm air met me. 
Crouching close to a hot stove was a man who looked weak 
and sick. On a pile of boughs was another man looking 
still weaker and sicker. 

" Got any grub? " said the man at the stove, in a husky 
voice, looking up to me with eager eyes. 

" Too much," I said. " I want a fire and a tent." 

" Wake up, Jim! Wake up! Something to eat! " he 
said, rousing the other man. 

They had lost their provisions a long ways down the 
river, and had been passed along from camp to camp with 
just enough food to last them, l)ut one of tliciii IkkI frozen 


the soles of his feet and for a whole day they had been 
camped there with nothing to cat. 

" I began to think I should have to kill one of the dogs 
and eat him," said one of the men, after we had feasted. 

" Dogs? I saw no dogs about." 

'' AVait a minute." 

AVe mixed np some flour and bacon and stepped out to 
where the snow was drifting ever deeper and deeper. Kick- 
ing about in some little mounds in the drifted snow we found 
three dogs, sleeping as peacefully and snugly as possible. 
But how they ate! And then they lay down and let the 
snow drift over them again. 

The next day we pushed on rapidly, for Jim's feet were 
better, though still painful. I knew we must make good 
time if my provisions lasted three men and three dogs over 
the pass. But we had fair weather till we reached the sum- 
mit, which we crossed in the teeth of a blizzard. 

AVliile we were at Sheep Camp there was a bad accident 
on the summit which we had just safely crossed. The 
blizzard was still raging, and as a party of coast-bound 
miners w'ere coming over, an avalanche came thundering 
down the mountain side above the narrow defile through 
which the miners pass. It covered a large section of the 
new tramway, and several sleds and tons of provisions were 
a total loss. On the other side a glacier broke away, and 
rushed down with terrific force, burying two sleds and a part 
of the outfit of two men. 

We reached Dyea without further adventures. It was 
a sad journey. And as I stood on the deck of the steamer, 
looking back on those sombre shores and frowning sum- 
mits, my thoughts were of my lost friend and his tragic 


The great rush to the Klondike and Alaska- 
excitement ALL over the world — prepara- 

At Seattle — The Stampede of 1898 — Nothing to Compare with It — 
The Days of '49 Eclipsed — Transportation Engaged in Advance — 
Fitting Up Vessels to Accommodate the Trade — " Klondicitis " — 
The Topic of Conversation Everywhere — Preparing Outfits — 
Returning Klondiiiers Besieged — Women and Children Have the 
Fever — Old Gold-Seekers Aroused — All Sorts of Men Join in 
the Rush — Great Exodus from California — Associations of 
Women — Gold Dust on Exhibition — The Craze Reaches Jerusa- 
lem — A Quarter of a Million of People — How It Appeared to a 
Returned Klondiker — All After Gold — Money Spent for Outfits — 
What It May Mean — Doubling the Gold Production in a Single 
Year- If All Make Fortunes Gold Will Become Cheap. 

BY the time I had arrived in the harbor of Seattle I had 
about made up my mind that I had seen all I cared 
to of the Klondike, and that I should look about 
for a chance to employ my capital in the States. I had 
formed no adequate idea, even from the stories which had 
leaked into the Yukon valley, of the extent of the excite- 
ment over the Klondike discoveries, and my surprise upon 
landing and learning' the true situation may be imagined. 
I do not believe there is a more remarkable incident in the 
whole drama of human history than the great stampede of 
1898, a term which must be giveu to the exodus of jicdplo 



bound to the frozen regions of the north in search of gold. 
The stampede of Eastern people to California in 1849 and 
1850 cannot be compared with it. That movement was 
gradual, in a sense. It could take place at any time of the 
year, and people had more and easier routes than Alaska 
affords. But all the miners who poured into California in 
the first three years did not number over one hundred 
and twenty-five thousand, and many careful historians have 
put the number at less than a hundred thousand. There 
were never more than fifty thousand arrivals in the South 
African gold fields in any one year. Xot more than seventy 
thousand people went to Australia when gold was discovered 
there. But the number of people leaving the Pacific coast 
alone for the Klondike or other parts of Alaska- in the spring 
of 1898 was estimated at seventy thousand, and it was cal- 
culated that one hundred and fifty thousand more from the 
Eastern states, Canada, Europe, Australia, and South 
America were preparing to set out. 

By the first of January, 1898, the five transcontinental 
railroads had contracted to sell to Eastern agents tickets for 
carrying more than forty-five thousand people going to the 
Klondike before June, and the demands for tickets were 
coming in every day. The two principal steam navigation 
companies, operating between Seattle and San Erancisco on 
the south and the Yukon river on the north, had orders for 
the transportation of over twenty thousand travelers, while 
new companies for the trade had be,en formed by the score 
and were bringing into use almost every steam craft of any 
size on the coast. The more conservative estimate of the 
number of people transported by the railroads to the coast 
to take north-bound vessels was placed by passenger agents 
at not less than two hundred and fifteen thousand. 


At the shipping towns all winter hundreds of men were 
employed night and day in fitting up vessels suitable for 
carrying people and provisions up the Yukon River from 
the time navigation opened to September. It was said that 
every vessel on the Pacific coast from Chili to British Co- 
lumbia that could be bought and made serviceable for a sea 
voyage was in preparation for the Klondike business. 
Twenty or more sea-going craft were fitted out in Eastern 
seaports and went around the Horn to be ready for the 
grand rush to Alaska. Millions of dollars' worth of capital 
was put into shipping and transportation companies, and the 
demand for facilities seemed to have no limit. 

The way the fever had taken hold of the people of the 
coast, especially in California and Washington, was some- 
thing appalling. The papers called it '' Klondicitis." In 
the larger centers of California the preparations for going 
to the Klondike were as general and as earnest as they were 
in Eastern localities for men going to war in the early 
sixties. Wherever I went I heard little but " Klondike " 
talked about on the cars, in the hotels, in the saloons, and 
even on Sunda^^s at church. Whenever you observed a 
knot of men in the street, in a rural highway, or in any public 
place in California, you were pretty sure to find that the 
latest news of new strikes in the Klondike diggings was 
under discussion. All the letters that had come straggling 
down from Dawson were passed from hand to hand and read 
aloud until they fell into tatters. " Yes, I'm going this 
spring," was a popular button worn. In all the large cities 
nuggets and bottles of gold dust were on exbil)ition in show- 
windows, and groups of men were always aboiit lli(> yellow 
stuff which at Dawson would not liavc niti'ncfcd 1i;ilf as 
much of a crowd as a nice roast of beef. Wherever 1 went, 


railroad billboards were covered with Klondike circulars, 
and, later, in every depot I entered as I came East were to be 
found circulars announcing an easy route to the Pacific 
coast and the Klondike. 

The fever affected all lines of enterprise. It was a great 
thing for business on the Pacific coast. Hundreds of firms 
and individuals were preparing outfits of fur caps and coats, 
rubber goods, sleds, stoves, tents, and all sorts of devices, and 
were selling them like hot cakes. 

The Klondike fever seemed to be in the air. Women 
and children shared in the desire to get rich in the Klon- 
dike, and maps of Alaska were pored over by whole families 
for e^'enings at a time. When I was visiting an old friend 
of mine in Los Angeles I was besieged by all the neighbors 
for information as to the Klondike. One evening I asked 
his son, a bright lad of ten years, if he knew the length of 
the sea coast of California, and he said he did not. But I 
found that he knew the exact length of the Yukon River. 
Little schoolboys and girls knew the topography of the 
Yukon and Klondike regions better than they did that of 
their native State. The fact that several hundred men went 
from the Pacific coast to the Yukon River mines in 1894, 
1895, and 1896, all very poor, and that they came back in 
1897 very rich — some of them millionaires and some of 
them bringing with them sixty thousand dollars, seventy 
thousand dollars, and eighty thousand dollars in actual gold 
— set the communities in which these successful Klondikers 
were personally known well-nigh vnld with anxiety to go 
and do likewise. 

The desire on the Pacific coast for information about 
the possibilities in the marvelous new diggings has amounted 
almost to hunger. The public libraries all had constant 


calls for literature relating to Alaska. All tlie returned 
Klondikers were run after and appealed to by crowds of men 
and a few women for Klondike information. The more 
successful Klondikers were driven to exasperation by un- 
countable questions from droves of people. William 
Hewitt, who came back to his Ventura country home with 
a five-gallon oil can filled with gold dust and nuggets, had 
more than one hundred callers and talkers every day for 
weeks, and as many letters from every State in the Union. 
J. C. Miller was on the verge of nervous prostration and 
had to leave his Los Angeles home when he got back from 
the Klondike because he was visited by a swarm of gold- 
crazy men day after day for a month. 

Clarence A. Berry and his wife, who came from Daw- 
son with more than one hundred and ten thousand dollars, 
were followed by such throngs on the streets of San Fran- 
cisco that they fled to their quiet ranch home at Selma, 
where a flood of letters came in upon them with every mail. 
Jacob Wiseman, a returned Klondiker in Walla Walla, 
Wash., was bothered so much and so long by Klondike-wild 
people that he quit the town secretly and went and lived 
under an assumed name at Tacoma for a few weeks. 

The men who were making ready for the Yidvon Kiver 
and Klondike country were of all stations. Naturally, the 
old-time miners were most mightily moved by the news of 
the gold find in Alaska, and, possessed by the characteristic 
restlessness of gold-seekers, many of them had gone to 
Alaska and had been struggling all winter from I)y(\'i and 
Skagway over the Chilkoot Pass to Dawson, About every 
able-bodied and ambitious man in (California who had been 
out of employment for a time was either arranging to slai't 
for the Klondike or was just itching for a cbancc to get 


away. Iluudrecls of men gave notice to their employers 
that they would quit their jobs and sail as soon as possible 
fur Alaska. The Santa Fe and Sonthern Pacific raih-oad 
companies each received applications from scores of men 
for relief from duty. Every police force in the larger cities 
up the Pacific coast States had vacancies caused by the resig- 
nation of men going to the gold diggings. 

Clerks, lawyers, editors, reporters, doctors, merchants, 
butchers, cobblers, stablemen, ranchers, and especially 
engineers and men who love adventure were getting ready 
to start for the Klondike when navigation began. The men 
who had a few thousand dollars saved, and believed they 
could soon double their capital by lending it at exorbitant 
interest rates, or by trading, were largely in evidence among 
those who were soon going north. ]\Iore than three-fourths 
of the members of the graduating classes of the San Fran- 
cisco and Los Angeles medical schools were hastening their 
studies with a view to getting established in the practice of 
their profession somewhere in the Klondike country. 

Every community, even the most humble hamlet, had 
some citizens who were packing and planning to live a year 
at least in the Klondike gold region. In such towns as 
Eresno, Stockton, Riverside, Pomona, and Redlands there 
were companies of twenty and thirty men who were going 
to dig for Klondike gold. The greatest rush of people in 
any Eastern city in the United States for the Klondike 
placer mines was from Chicago. 

The number of women going to the Klondike as soon 
as navigation opens was increasing as the continuous reports 
of richer and more abundant finds came down from the 
frozen north. The allurements of the yellow metal were 
almost as potent among the women of California as among 


the men, and the exhibits of Klondike nuggets and golden 
dust in the store and bank windows and public places, and 
the personal knowledge of men who went to Alaska poor in 
1895 and came back rich, all had their effect. The book- 
sellers said they had hundreds of calls from women for 
books and maps giving a knowledge of Alaska, and the 
newspaper accounts of the work and success of the miners 
on the Klondike were read by as many California women as 
men. Every community of two thousand or three thou- 
sand people had a few women residents making ready to go 
to live in the Klondike region for a year or two. In Los 
Angeles there were twenty women making Klondike prepa- 
rations. San Diego had half a dozen, San Francisco more 
than one hundred, Portland, Ore., a score, and Seattle twice 
as many more. But few of these women were going with 
husbands. The greater part of them had no husbands, and 
they went to the gold regions expecting that where men 
may get rich either as workers in mines or owners of mining 
claims they also may do so. 

A few women went as mining prospectors. Miss Jennie 
Hilton, who has made a small fortune in gold-mining in 
Arizona, contracted with a syndicate of business-like women 
to spend two years in gold-mining in the Klondike region. 
The profits were to go to the members of the syndicate, who 
will pay Miss Hilton a good salary and twenty per cent, of 
the first year's find of gold. Several associations of women 
were formed for mining in the Klondike region, and each 
sent several w^omen to seek gold for thoin. 

The competition among the transcontinental niilroad 
companies for the transportation business, niid jmiong tlio 
cities of San Francisco, Seattle, and Tacoma for the enor- 
mous sums spent on the coast for Klondike^ outfits, was very 


keeu. Three of the raih'oad companies had cars tilled witli 
Klondike exhibits traveling from town to town in the 
Eastern States. The cars were substantially the same. 
Each contained glass jars of nuggets and gold dust, litera- 
ture about Alaska and the new diggings, and a complete and 
varied assortment of the articles necessary for living and 
successful mining in the Arctic regions. There were 
miners' pans, rockers, picks, hammers, shovels, quicksilver 
contrivances for holding particles of gold, besides samples 
of fur and wool garmentvS worn in the Arctic regions, fur 
hoods and muffs and walrus skin shoes. There were hun- 
dreds of pictures showing how the gravel of the mines is 
thawed and dug out, and how it is finally sluiced when the 
warmer weather of midsummer comes; pictures of miners' 
life in the Yukon cabins, and photographs of Dawson and 
the surrounding country. 

The rush of people to the Klondike during the five 
months of navigation in 1898 was the most wonderful ever 
known to any region — gold or otherwise. White, red, 
brown, and black men alike were stirred by the discovery of 
a new gold field, and all came over seas from the antipodes 
and across continents to join in a grand rush northward up 
the Pacific. 

One company alone received more than twenty-five 
thousand inquiries from people saying they were making 
ready to go to the Klondike. 

The letters that the transportation companies received 
every day showed that the Klondike fever was by no means 
local. It reached Russia and even staid old Jerusalem, 
where one would believe that digging gold within the Arctic 
circle would not have a moment's consideration. A gentle- 
man in the Central Pacific offices showed me a letter from a 


Greek in Jerusalem who said tliat be and a company of 
other Greeks there are going to Dawson with stores of 
goods to trade. Norwegians and Swedes have been more 
deeply interested in the newly-found gold mines in Alaska 
than any people on the continent of Europe. Several of 
their countrymen were among the Klondikers who came 
down from Alaska with fortunes. A sloop having on board 
ninety Norwegians left Christiania in October, going 
around the Horn and reaching San Francisco in April. 
Hundreds of letters from Englishmen were received, and 
there were large concerns doing a thriving business in Lon- 
don in fitting out prospective Klondikers with Arctic 
raiment and miners' tools. The Canadian Pacific Railroad 
expected to carry several thousand young Englishmen and 
Canadians across the continent on their way to the Klon- 
dike. Dozens of large expeditions were forming in Eng- 
land and Scotland for digging gold in the Yukon Kiver 

The Britannia-Columbia Company sold thousands of 
pounds' worth of stock and sent more than five hundred 
men to mine and trade in the new gold region. An expedi- 
tion of three hundred Scotchmen sailed for Montreal in the 
latter part of January on their way to Alaska. A company 
of young Italians was in San Francisco, impatiently await- 
ing the sailing of the first boat for the Yukon. They were, 
they said, the advance guard of several hundred of their 
countrymen who have been charmed by the news of the 
fortunes made on the Klondike. 

A fairly conservative estimate of the number of ])eoi)lG 
who were going into the Klondike or to other gold fields in 
Alaska was two hundred and fifty thousand. T mot tliem 
all the way on my trip East. Every wcst-bouii<l express 


was loaded down with Klondikers. One day 1 saw fonrtcen 
coaches on a west-bound train. Xine coaches make an 
ordinary and a heavy train, but the rush was so great that 
five additional coaches had been attached to the train. 
Every day there were from three to six additional coaches 
to each westward-bound train. The passenger list of a 
single day's through train included about tw^o hundred men 
and one hundred dogs bound for the gold fields. 

To one who has just returned from a two-years ex- 
perience in the gold regions of the Yukon, who has seen 
death and suffering as an incident of everyday life, who 
knows what mining in Alaska or in the Klondike means, 
who has been forced to rush back to the States to make sure 
of enough to eat, and who has seen his dearest friend 
swept away under the ice by a raging river which can count 
its victims by the score, these preparations for rushing for 
fortunes into those frozen mountains appeared like madness. 
Yet when we come to study it, it is nothing of the kind. It 
is human nature manifesting itself in a certain direction. 
What had Joe and I gone into Alaska for? Gold. What 
did the ten thousand or more people who sought to go in 
in 1897 want but gold? And what were the two hundred 
and fifty thousand people I found preparing to rush in after 
but gold? It is that which society in its growth and 
economic development has decreed as the standard of all 
value, that which the old alchemists tried to make, which the 
miser gloats over, that which when held in abundance gives 
men standing in society, influence, and power. That is 
what all are after, and the stampede would probably not be 
more remarkable if the only way to save the immortal soul 
was to winter in Alaska. 

But there is money to be made in the United States as 


well as in Alaska. One might make as miicli in a day on 
the stock exchange as he can find in a year in Alaska or the 
Klondike. But that is not the point. The impression is 
that the gold of the Yukon can be obtained easily, that the 
land is a poor man's country, and that in a year or so one 
may return rich and take that place in society that wealth 
can give. But gold does not grow upon the bushes of the 
Yukon hills; it does not lie to any great extent on the 
ground; in the whole great valley probably there are few 
places where boulders can be turned over disclosing shining 
nuggets underneath. There are acres of gold there, but to 
secure the precious metal one must be prepared to work as 
he would not work in the United States. He must run 
the risk of losing his life or ruining his constitution, and 
even then he may not find the wealth he sought. 

During the winter following the gold discoveries on the 
Yukon there were at least two thousand people at Dawson 
and in the mines. The output was reckoned at about six 
million dollars; that is about three thousand dollars for each 
person. No man can go into the Klondike and live a year 
and profitably work a mine for any such amount of money 
as that. The trip in with a fair outfit can cost no l(>ss than 
five hundred dollars. By the time ho has staked a claim, 
built a hut, and prepared to work the mine, he has spent 
nearer two thousand dollars, and if he is careful and has 
good luck he may get out of the country at the end of a year 
on the balance. 

But, it will be said, there were several men wlio went in 
with thousands in the summer of 1(S07 and caiiic out with 
millions. They certainly came out with thousands. So 
much the worse, then, for those avIio did not uinkc thou- 
sands, for, as I have said, the outjuit per jxtsou was not 


greater than three thousand. If a hundred or so came out 
with thousands, how about the other one thousand nine hun- 
dred who did not ? 

It has been said that ten thousand people rushed into 
the Klondike and to other points on the Yukon in 1897. 
But the output can hardly be greater than twenty million, 
that is two thousand per pei-son. If two hundred and fifty 
thousand people rush into the country, it is not likely that 
they will spend less than three hundr&d dollars each in get- 
ting into the country. That means seventy-five million 
dollars. They will probably spend more on the average. 
Supposing that these people spend a year in Alaska and take 
out an average of two tliousand dollars each — an amount 
that would not pay their expenses — the aggregate output 
for 1898-99 would be five hundred million dollars, or more 
than ticice the gold prod net iou in JS97 for the entire 

It is plain, therefore, that the great rush of people 
into the Yukon valley means one of two things; either a 
great loss of money for those engaged in the rush, or a 
complete upsetting of the standard on which all values are 

But they are not after the paltry two thousand dollars! 
They would not rush in for that. Their hopes are to come 
out as some of the lucky ones did last year with fortunes of 
fifty thousand dollars or more apiece, perhaps a million. 
They do not stop to think what that means. If one-half of 
them made fortunes of only twenty-five thousand dollars 
each and the other half made nothing, it would mean an 
output of over four billion dollai*s in gold, or more than all 
the coined gold in a world which has been coining it for 
fifty centuries. 


Tliere must either be a terrible disappointment to the 
thousands who are going into Alaska and the Klondike or 
there must be a monetary upheaval. If all become rich in 
gold, the metal will become cheap, too cheap to be worth the 
hazards and privations endured by those who sought it. 



Waiting for More Thorough Prospects — Comparative Smallnessof the 
Klondike District — Room for a Million to be Lost in — The Klon- 
dike all Located — The Government's Gold Map — Traces of Gold 
Everywhere — Most of Alaska Unexplored — Some Comparisons 
with Early Production in California — Difference in Conditions — 
Obstacles to be Overcome — Possibly a Dozen Klondikes — Induce- 
ments for Quartz Mining — A Belt of Rich Rock Thousands of 
Miles Long — The Quartz Mines of Unga Island — A String of 
Islands that May be Rich in Gold — A Test of Klondike Quartz — 
Credit for the First Discovery — Cook Inlet and Its Mines — The 
Benefit of Waiting a Little Longer — The Copper River Countrj' — 
Stories of Rich Diggings — Friendly Indians with Mineral Wealth 
— Points of Distribution — Unforeseen Results of Our Purchase of 
Alaska — Its Future. 

WHILE it may seem that there can be but one 
answer to the question as to whether the hopes 
of the thousands of people who have gone to the 
Yukon valley can be realized, it is certainly impossible for 
any man to say what may be the results till the great country 
has been more thoroughly explored and prospected. The 
general conception of wdiat is required in life in Alaska 
or the British Xorthwest Territory, is quite as inadequate 
as the usual idea. as to the size of the country, and of the 
comparative size of the so-called Klondike district. The 



area of the whole of the Klondike and. Indian River dis- 
tricts, upon which any work of importance was done before 
.the spring of 1898, is not greater than that of the State of 
Rhode Island. But the area of Alaska alone is four hun- 
dred and twenty times that of Rhode Island, and the British 
Yukon district, in which the Klondike region lies, is at least 
two hundred times the size of the State of Rhode Island. 
In other words, almost the whole excitement over gold dis- 
coveries in the north has centered in a little clump of moun- 
tains forming about one six hundred and twenty-fifth part 
of the great country whose future has become a matter of 
such interest, and upon the development of which results 
so largely depend. It wdll thus be seen that while there re- 
mains little chance for newcomers in the Klondike, it would 
be easy for a million people to be so placed in the whole 
country that they might feel lonesome. Those who 
stumbled upon the Klondike placers just happened to find 
one of the rich pockets under the moss and muck of the 
land, and even as a result of nearly two years of excitement 
much less of the district has been worked than has been 
preempted. Comparatively little ground has been worked 
yet. The claims on the various creeks forming the dis- 
trict have all been located; wherever gold has been found 
on the side hills above the creek beds bench claims have 
been located, and a few quartz claims have been recorded. 
But even so, the Klondike district is a small one compared 
with the area of country over which gold has been found. 

As a result of the now interest in these gold fields, the 
government of the T'nited States has recently prepared a 
gold map combining the results of its recent explorations 
and the reports of those who have found traces of gold in 
various parts of the country. AVliercvcr such I races liiiv(> 


been found it is indicated by yellow spots, and the most 
striking thing about it is the extent of the country so 
dotted. Gold is everywhere, apparently, on all the creeks 
and rivers, and yet most of the gold that has been taken 
out has been from a few small creeks and gulches. A large 
part of Alaska is entirely unexplored, is a real terra in- 
coy)! if a. The fact that so many have had their attention 
attracted in its direction constitutes the possibility of start- 
ling results. 

When we consider that the country in question is five 
times as large as California, and that gold is found over 
such a large area, while the placers of California were not 
large in comparison with the whole State, and, further, that 
placers of such richness as those of the Yukon have never 
before been found, it is easy to see that the most astonish- 
ing results are possible, when human energy and ingenuity 
is once centered on the problem of securing the gold. 

The gold production of the United States for the first 
six years of the California discoveries (nearly all of it the 
result of working the alluvial of that State) is officially 
o-iven as follows : 

1848, . 

. $10,000,000 

1851, . 

. 155,000,000 

1849, . 

. 40,000,000 

1853, . 

. 60.000,000 

1850, . 

. 50,000,000 

1853, . 

. 65,000,000 

From that point it began to decline rapidly, for the 
placers were exhausted to a large degree. On about a 
score of mines, which were worked in a crude way during 
the wint-er of 1896-Y on two streams in the Klondike, fully 
five million dollars in gold was produced. The evidence 
of this fact is that more than that amount was brought 
riown in the summer of 1897 from this region, and there 
U'as certainlv considerable ffold taken out that winter that 


was not brought down. While during the succeeding win- 
ter more claims were worked, the scarcity of food rendered 
the labor of many who were in the district inefficient. 
Nevertheless, the production can hardly be less than twice 
what it was in California in 1 848, and if the people rushing 
into the country in 1898 accomplish anything like what 
the Forty-niners did, or what the gold-seekers in 1851 in 
Australia did, it can not be an exaggeration to say that the 
gold production of Alaska and the upper Yukon territory 
may reach a hundred millions annually; and while the rich 
placers of California were quickly exhausted, those of the 
North seem inexhaustible. 

But the difference in climate and in the conditions as 
to placer mining between California or Australia and the 
Yukon must be taken into consideration. In Australia 
and California a man with pick, shovel, and pan could, in 
the days of gulch or creek mining, prospect in all seasons, 
was nearly always within easy reach of supplies, and could 
prospect many miles of creek in a few weeks; for there the 
ground was not frozen and was not covered with muck, and 
the pay was, in most cases, found along the present streams, 
something that is not true on the Yukon, where the gold in 
all creek claims is mined from what is called a pay-channel, 
or, sometimes, two pay-channels. Tlie pay-channels do 
not follow the lines of the present streams at all, though 
confined by the same walls; and prospectors in endeavoring 
to locate the pay are in no way guided l)y the course of (lie 
present streams nor assisted by modern erosions, except 
that in summer they may find evidence that there is a rich 
pay-channel in the presence of gold in the bed of the stream, 
washed from such pay-cli;iinicl ; biil in (n-clcr to tiii<! llic (1(>- 
posit the prospector must wait until the ground is iVu/.cii. 


But such obstacles will not baffle hiimaii inocniiitj, and 
it is safe to say tliat tlie discovery on the Klondike is but 
the beginning of systematic mining on a large scale, for, 
innnense as the riches of the district are, they are merely 
an object lesson of the opportunities which lie waiting 
thronghont the Yukon basin. Even the crowds who have 
already gone will hardly make a showing in that vast area. 
"We have yet to hear from creeks like Sulphur, ]\Iontana, 
and ]\rooschide, which are known to be rich and which were 
largely discovered and staked by those who first rushed in 
after the news of the Klondike. It is not extravagant to 
say that another year may develop a dozen Klondikes, and 
that the principal scene of operations will be in Alaska, 
where miners are free from the extortion of royalty and 
taxes by the Canadian government. 

In many respects quartz mining offers greater induce- 
ments to those seeking fortunes in Alaska than the working 
of the frozen placers, but, as yet, little is known of the pos- 
sibilities in this direction. There is the natural assump- 
tion that where such rich deposits are found in the creek 
beds and on some of the hillsides, gold-bearing rock of 
great value must exist. It would seem to be a fact that the 
gold in nuggets found on Bonanza and Eldorado bears no 
evidence of having traveled any distance — in fact, the ma- 
jority of the nuggets are as angular and irregular in shape 
as though just pounded out of the mother lode. This leads 
to the inference that that mother lode is not very distant 
from where this gold is now found, and the only debatable 
question is, is it in lodes of sufficient dimensions to pay for 
working by stamp mills, or is it a series of widely-dis- 
seminated, thin seams that the miners term " stringers," so 


scattered as to render working them unprofitable? Time 
alone will reveal this secret. 

Gold has been foimd at the head of Lake Lebarge on a 
stream flowing into the lake from the east. Prospects, too, 
are found on the Dalton trail, on the other side of the 
Yukon River. A man riding across the Alsek on this trail 
was thrown from his horse, and in clambering ashore caught 
at a small tree, which pulled out by the roots. AVhere he 
landed he saw something shining on the rock. He picked 
it up and found that it was gold. He showed this gold at 
Fort Cudahy in July, 1896, the amount being about one 
dollar and sixty cents. Other prospects have also been 
found along the same trail, about midway between there 
and Selkirk. 

From these circumstances and discoveries it may be as- 
sumed that in all this country there is gold, while in one 
particular zone it is especially abundant. This zone lies 
outside of a range of mountains which extends to the west- 
ward of the Rockies and has the same general trend. It 
consists of cretaceous rock, rising into very high peaks in 
some places, and crosses the Yukon River just below the 
boundary. The ore-bearing rocks crop out at intervals on 
the hills, being covered up in between by thousands of feet 
of sedimentary shales, the peculiar formation being due to 
a tremendous crumpling up of the whole region in some 
ancient epoch. 

Opposite the mouth of Klondike Creek, and opposite 
Dawson, a tunnel has been driven into a wide body of ore 
in the rocks, which is said to assay thirty-six dollars in gold 
and eighteen dollars in silver to the ton. On the trail from 
Circle City to Birch Creek is a quartz vein ten feet wide 


that shows much free gold. On Deadwood Creek, in the 
neighborhood of Birch Creek, is a wide vein ricli in silver. 

So far as any tests of importance have been made, there 
can be little donbt of the existence of a great belt of ore, 
and some rich specimens have been reported. The Cana- 
dian surveyor who made a test of a specimen taken from a 
claim on Gold Bottom Creek said of it : 

" I had no sieve and had to employ a hand mortar, 
which those who know anything of the work will under- 
stand would not give the best results. The poorest result 
obtained, however, was one hundred dollars to the ton, 
while the richest was one thousand dollars. Of course, I 
do not know what the extent of the claim is, but the man 
who found it said that from the rock exposed the deposit 
must be considerable in extent." 

The credit for the first quartz discovery in the Klondike 
seems to belong to one W. Oler. On December 15th he 
found a well-defined ledge of gold-bearing quartz on Hunker 
Creek, just above Last Chance. It was of pure white, re- 
sembling the rose quartz of California, and the ledge aver- 
aged seven feet wide on the croppings. Crude assays of the 
quartz showed free gold, and a half interest in the claim 
was purchased by Ladue for eight thousand dollai's. Oler 
was regarded as one of the best quartz experts on the 

Reference has already been made to the large stamp 
mills on Douglas Island opposite Juneau. Several other 
mines in that vicinity are being successfully worked by 
capital. Indeed, it requires capital, for while the ledge 
of gold-bearing rock stretches for many miles the ore is of 
low grade. With capital these mines in 1897 produced 
almost as much gold as the Klondike placers. 


Nearly all the mining in western Alaska thus far is at 
Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and Unga Island. At 
Unga there are a number of quartz mines, one of which, the 
Apollo Consolidated, has a development of about eight 
hundred feet, and forty stamps at work. In 1896 it 
crushed about forty one thousand tons and produced over 
three hundred thousand dollars' worth of bullion. It is 
now shipjjing about thirty thousand dollars a month to San 
Francisco. The island is but one of that great group whicli 
stretches for such a distance into the Pacific, and scarcely 
any prospecting has been done upon them, though there 
are many indications that they are nearly all of the same 
formation. For anything that may l^e known, all these 
islands may be rich in gold. 

Actual ojjerations have been largely confined to the 
districts known as Cook's Inlet and Prince AVilliani St)iiiid, 
into which flows the Copper River. The country about 
Cook Inlet is not develoiDed yet, so that it is impossible to 
say how rich it may be. So far, while no very rich placer 
claims have been reported, many are paying well. Mills 
Creek is reported to be the best. One company located 
there, working twenty men, averaged one thousand dollars 
a day for the season of 1897. The season lasts for not mova 
than four months. There were only about forty men win- 
tering at Sunrise City, and thirty at Cook City, and they 
had provisions for three years, so that they possessed some 
advantages which were lacking in the Yukon districts. 

A man who has been at Sunrise City for two years tells 
me that the miners have not really commenced on the (^)ok 
Inlet district yet. It requires a whole season to fully pros- 
pect a claim. Some men work a while witlioul nviiino- 
anything, and then go away in-onouneiug the place ol" no 


value. But one fellow illustrated the wisdom of staying 
a little longer, lie had five hinidred dollars when he ar- 
rived at the Inlet, and went to work on Lynx Creek. He 
took out about one dollar and fifty cents a day to the man, 
and was drawing on his capital to pay his help at the rate 
of four 'dollars a day per man. When his money was 
nearly all gone the men stopped work and pulled away, 
saying there was no gold there and that the poor fellow 
had lost his capital. One day, however, he came to town 
with a sack of one thousand dollars, wdiich he had taken 
out in a week, and he took one thousand a week for the re- 
mainder of the season. 

Only two streams and their tributaries have ever been 
mined — Six ^Alile River and Resurrection Creek. The 
tributaries of the former which are paying are Cahon^ 
Mills, a tributary of Caiion, and Gulch creeks. 

Some mining is being done all along the banks of Six 
Mile River, which is a big stream one hundred and eighty- 
five feet wide at Sunrise City, with a rapid current. There 
is gold in its bed, but on account of its size and the current 
it is not an easy stream to work, so most of the miners keep 
to the gulches. There are places where Six Mile River 
might be turned from its course at a small expense, and the 
exposed bed should furnish rich ground for extensive work. 
Large companies have organized to develop this district on 
an extensive scale. 

One report states that the best paying property is on 
Crranite Gulch, a tributary of Six Mile, but no one has yet 
seen bed-rock there. The tributaries of Resurrection 
Creek which are paying are Bear and Palmer, but the gold 
on the former is w^orth only about fourteen dollars and forty 


cents per ounce, while that on the other is worth about six- 
teen dollars. 

Right across Turnagain Arm is Burt Creek, which was 
the scene of a rush during the season of 1897. It is not 
thoroughly prospected, but it is reported that a man took 
out pans of from eighty cents to one dollar and twenty 
cents right on the surface. 

There is one good thing about the Cook Inlet country 
— it is a comparatively cheap place in which to live. It 
costs but about one hundred dollars to build a cabin, and 
provisions cost very little more than at ports of the United 
States. Freight rates from Seattle are only about half a 
cent a pound, which is very different from the rates to the 
upper Yukon. 

On Prince William Sound is what is commonly known 
as the Copper River country. Some copper ore ledges of 
great size have been found on Fidalgo Bay and Latouche 
Island. Some of the ledges are said to be fifty feet wide 
and to carry copper sulphides assaying from twenty to fifty 
per cent, of copper, but little gold. 

Where there is any placer gold on Copper River re- 
mains to be seen. It is a very rough country around the 
mouth, and the men who have been up the river far are 
hard to find. Those who have been up a little distance 
claim that for the first one hundred and twenty miles the 
gold to be found is too fine to pay for getting out, but that 
beyond there are placers which will rival tlie Klondike. 
This, however, must be partly guesswork, until more pros- 
pecting has been done. 

From letters received, liowever, from a party which 

went on a prospecting trip in the summer of 1807, very 

rich gold fields arc a possibility of the upper river. One 


mciiiber of the ex])cditioii stated that he had discovered 
quartz whieli yiekled twenty dollars to the ton, and that 
the streak was a very wide one. 

In the fall of 18!) 7 there were about two hundred pros- 
pectors at Orca and the vicinity of the mouth of the Cop- 
per Kiver, awaiting a favorable opportunity to advance 
towards the headwatei-s. One of the men who had been 
to a point about fifty miles up the river heard of rich de- 
posits of gold which had been found north of Spirit Moun- 
tain, on a tributary of the Chittyna River, about tweity 
miles from its confluence with the Copper. It was said 
that one of the locators had taken out sixty thousand dol- 
lars the season before, and that supplies had been brought 
in to the camp by men avIio had kept the discovery secret. 
There were all sorts of stories about these diggings, which, 
it was said, would rival those of the Klondike, but time 
only will prove the truth of these assertions. 

Copper River is not a good place for a tenderfoot. 
Forty miles up the river are the rapids. The entrance to 
the mouth of the river is very difficult, and can be made 
only by those who know the roundabout way of getting 
in. Above the rapids the river freezes over towards the 
last of October, and the slush and snow make it almost im- 
passable for any but the strongest traveler. By January 
the snow is likely to be about twenty feet deep on level 
places, and that is the best and most practicable month for 

People who have made the journey up the river at this 
propitious time have reported that the Indians are friendly 
and that they have marvelous mineral resources, though 
their implements are very crude. Their chief metal is 
copper, wliich they have in abundance, as pure as'ever came 


from a smelter. They also have gold bracelets and finger 
ornaments, but when asked where they got this gold they 
are very reticent and simply point mysteriously towards the 

There are numerous other places in Alaska in which 
gold has been found, and many more where it is just as 
likely to be found. The Kuskokwim River is one of the 
great streams of l^orth Am£rioa, but probably not half a 
dozen white men now living have any knowledge of it be- 
yond the Roman Catholic mission at Oknagamut, and cer- 
tainly no man who has been heard of is qualified to speak 
with authority of the possibilities of the country it traverses, 
so far as mining is concerned. All that can truthfully be 
said is that on two or three of its bars " colors " have been 

In the coast region above the mouths of the Yukon 
practically no prospecting has been done save on the shore 
of I^orton Sound, and not much even there. Silver has 
been discovered on this sound, the ore yielding one hundred 
and forty-three ounces of the white metal to the ton, and a 
ten-stamp mill is kept thundering. Gold has recently 
been found there in the sea-sand. A few years ago Lieu- 
tenant Stoney found a few grains of gold on bars of the 
Burkland and Selawik rivers, and Mr. Miner Bruce, in tlio 
summer of 1894, saw in the possession of an Eskimo iu>ar 
Fort Morton an ounce of coarse gold said to have been 
washed from gravel of the Kowak River. Further tliau 
this scarcely anything is known. Tliis district also waits 
the investigation of prospectors. 

I have already spoken of the possibilities of the Taiiana 
and Koynkuk rivers, each having tribnlarics heading up 
into the same belt of mountains from ihe gn]('h(>s of wliirli 


gold lias been taken. This is the story all over the great 

So long as the wealth is there it will undoubtedly be 
secured in time, but it will take a long time unless some- 
thing is done for transportation. Therein lies the key to 
the development of such a country. Whoever can suc- 
cessfully solve the problem of cheap transportation and 
easy communication will not simply do a great thing for 
the country but will make millions of money. If there 
is coal in the mountains, and it is asserted that there is, 
others can become rich in mining and selling that great 
article of fuel. The sale of merchandise cannot fail to be 
IDrofitable. Indeed, I have heard of several who, having 
been in the Klondike regions, have said that, so long as 
merchandise sold at such high prices on the Yukon, they 
would be satisfied with the profits upon that business, let- 
ting those who sought the gold take their chances. This 
species of speculation will be of great advantage to the 
country, for it will, perhaps, insure the workers in various 
placers the supply of food needed to take them tlu'ough an 
Arctic winter. 

Another requirement will be suitable points of dis- 
tribution. For example, Dawson under the present con- 
ditions can be used as a distributing point for only a small 
section — that little section of mining land about the Klon- 
dike. If those w^ho are prospecting on the Stewart find 
another rich region it will be necessary to have another dis- 
tributing point further up the river. It now takes so long 
a time to go back and forth to Dawson for provisions that 
little time is left for work in the creeks. 

When these problems have been solved there will be a 
new era in the world. There will no longer be a com- 


plaint of the scarcity of money if gold continues the stand- 
ard of value and the great means of exchange. The future 
of Alaska may have a great deal to do with the future of 
society in general. 

When Russia sold that great country to the United 
States for less than half a cent an acre, it was little dreamed 
that in a year or two a single industry would pay the bill; 
there was little thought that the salmon industry would pay 
it again; no one but a most extravagant dreamer would have 
dared to declare that in a quarter of a century it might be 
one of the richest mineral iields in the world. When 
W. H. Seward, Secretary of State, negotiated the purchase 
it was almost universally decried by the politicians and 
other wise people considered it a l)ad deal. Most Ameri- 
cans thought they were getting what Russia did not want, 
and were paying a big price for it. The purchase was op- 
probriously termed " Seward's Folly," " America's Polar 
Bear Reserve," and " The jSTew National Refrigerator." 
But now Great Britain is ready to dispute every inch of that 
small section of the boundary line about which there can be 
any dispute. Seward and Sumner, who supported the \n\Y- 
chase, were doubtless even wiser than they knew, but it 
shows that the foresight and sagacity of some men may be 
vindicated long after they are dead 



Some Advantages in Not Being in a Hurry — Not a Poor i\Ian's Country 
, — Good Advice from a United States Government Expert — A 
Place for Strong Men and Those Who Can Afford to Lose — 
Expenses Which Have to Be Met — The Cost of Cabins and Facili- 
ties for AVorkiug ]\Iines — One Thousand Dollars for Sluice Boxes 
— The Advantage of Having Partners — Unwise to Take Less 
Than a Year's Outfit — Suicide Cheaper in Lower Latitudes — It 
Takes a Week to Dig a Grave — Times When Every Man Looks 
the Picture of Distress — Sail North Only in Good Vessels — How 
to ^lark Packages — Trunks an Inconvenience — Sugar and Salt as 
Hard as Quartz — Tobacco as Good as Money on the Yukon — As 
to Furs — Shot Guns Better Than Revolvers — Jack Dalton's Rules 
for the Trail — Possibilities of Losing a Toe or a Foot. 

NOTWITHSTAXDIXG the richness of Alaska and 
the belief that a great future lies before it, no bet- 
ter advice, it seems to me, can be offered any one 
in search of a fortune than to stay away from Alaska, 
and especially the upper Yukon, for the present. There 
will be time enough to secure some of the gold in the 
country when better and safer means of communication 
and ways of living are provided. That may not be long 
lience. Already steps have been taken to greatly miti- 
gate the difficulties of the passes, but these passes are 
only the Ix'ginning of difficulties. At present, a trip to 



Alaska witli the intention of staying there a year or more 
is a great risk for any man, and for the poor man who knows 
nothing abont placer mining, and has a family depending 
upon him, it would be almost criminal to put a large amount 
of money into an Arctic outfit and make the attempt. 
Such a man would have about as good a chance to make a 
fortune by staking all that his outfit cost him on the 
gambling table at once. 

Alaska placers, I have no doubt, offer better oppor- 
tunities than most other gold-fields. But only prospectors 
and capitalists who can lose without being badly damaged 
should go there until more is known. I cordially indorse 
the advice given by Mr. Samuel C. Dunham, the expert sent 
into the Yukon country to report for the United States De- 
partment of Labor. He said, in Dawson, after studying 
the Klondike : " The poor man should not be encouraged 
to come here. ISTo man should think of coming who cannot 
bring with him at least a ton of food and at least one thou- 
sand dollars in cash, and who cannot lose a year of his labor, 
his ton of food, and his thousand of cash without wre(;king 
his family or imperiling his life scheme. Neither should 
the weak man be encouraged to come here. Only the 
strong, healthy man, capable of enduring the utmost hard- 
ship and the severest toil, is adapted to this region. For 
the prospector who is strong, and who has the degree of in- 
dependence I have suggested, this land affords excellent 
opportunities; and for capital I know of no ])lace tliat holds 
out better chances." 

In a previous chapter I have said that no one could 
afford to go to Alaska or to the Klondike and mine a year 
for less than three thousand dollars. Yet some seem to 
think that an outfit costing something like four lniii(li'c(l 


dollars is about all that is necessary. Possibly, a little more 
sjieeitic information as to some of the essential expenses of 
mining would enable intending gold-seekers to advise them- 
selves. We will assume that a man has gone to the Klon- 
dike successfully on about five hundred dollars, that is, 
tliat he has taken in a year's outfit without losing it, and has 
])aid the necessary charges in getting it there by any of the 
routes. We will assume also that he has located a claim in 
some district which promises to be paying and that he has 
paid the charges incident thereto, charges the nature of 
which have been already explained. This is assuming that 
he has made a pretty successful beginning, though he knows 
nothing as yet about the richness of his claim. He has 
simply arrived at the jioint where he must endeavor to find 
out how much he can make out of his spot of frozen earth. 

The first essential is to built a cabin on his claim. The 
cost of a rude hut about ten by fourteen feet will be about 
six hundred dollars, and this is assuming that he will not 
go to the extravagance of using sawed lumber. Having 
his hut ready and his outfit cached, at the beginning of win- 
ter he can set about working his claim. This requires both 
labor and wood. If he reaches bed-rock on one hundred 
dollars' worth of wood he will be doing well. If he finds 
the pay-streak the first time he is doing very well. If he 
hires labor to remove the dirt that is thawed out it will cost 
him about ten dollars a foot for each shaft he sinks. 

The cost of handling dirt from shaft-sinking to clean-up 
(labor bills), winter working, averages twelve dollars a 
cubic yard. In other words, by the time he is ready to 
think about sluicing he has spent on his outfit and his cabin, 
and for fuel and labor, not less than two thousand five hun- 
dred dollars. Seventy-two sets of longitudinal riffles per 


claim are used during the summer season, as claims are at 
present worked in the district, and these cost on an average 
five dollars a set. The cost of sluice-boxes, riffles not in- 
cluded, averages twenty-five dollars a box. The cost of set- 
ting a line of sluice-boxes and keeping the line set through 
a summer averages two thousand dollars. 

The cost of building a rough dam sufficient for the or- 
dinary working of the average five-hundred-foot claim in 
the Klondike division is about one thousand dollars. The 
cost of constructing a waste-ditch on claim Xo. 30, El- 
dorado Creek, was about one thousand two hundred dol- 
lars.' It is an average ditch. 

The cost of handling the dirt (labor bills), summer work- 
ing, from the ground-sluicing to the clean-up, averages five 
dollars a cubic yard on the entire quantity removed. The 
cost of pumping for drainage of a summer pit four hundred 
feet long by thirty feet wide, averages seventy-two dollars 
for twenty-four hours. 

AVheelbarrows cost twenty-five dollars apiece, whetlier 
bought or made ; shovels, three dollars and fifty cents apiece ; 
mattocks, five dollars apiece; blacksmith's portable forges, 
about two hundred dollars apiece; sluice-forks, six dollars 
apiece; axes, four dollars and fifty cents apiece; hand-saws, 
five dollars and fifty cents apiece; nails, forty cents a pound; 
gold-scales of average capacity, fifty dollars a pair; ([uick- 
silver, one dollar and twenty-five cents a pound; black 
powder, one dollar and twenty-five cents a pound. These 
prices are for the supplies delivered on the claims. Some 
of these articles may have been taken in with the original 

These are the main items of expense to bo iiicuri'cd by 
one who wishes to become the owner of a claim, who woi-ks 


it himself with hired help, and who has taken into the coun- 
try all he wants to eat. In no other way can he expect to 
make a fortune unless in pure speculation. He could not 
iKH'ome rich by working at days' wages, though his expenses 
would be less. 

If the dirt turns out to be rich he will be all right. If 
it docs not he will wish he had never heard of Alaska. In 
any case, the dirt must be of exceptional richness to pay 
him for such an outlay of money. It cost Clarence Berry 
about twenty-two thousand dollars to take one hundred and 
thirty thousand dollars out of some of the richest dirt that 
was ever discovered. 

AVith the knowledge of these facts a man who is intend- 
ing to go to the Klondike to become rich can advise himself, 
for he can understand what it means when I say that a per- 
son who knows nothing ab'out mining, and has little money, 
would have as good a chance of making a fortune by put- 
ting it at once upon a gambling table. 

Still, the gold is there, and millions will be made, and it 
is probably useless to advise against seeking to become one 
of the millionaires. The most important advice to be im- 
pressed upon those who are going to the Klondike or other 
points on the Yukon is have a good partner and a year's 
outfit. Partners are a necessity in Alaskan travel, but 
parties larger than three or four do not get along well to- 
gether, and usually split up. A two-years outfit is safer 
and better than less. It is constructive suicide for one to go 
to the Klondike wdth less than one year's supply of food. 
If the men wdio are starting out so gaily from comfortable 
homes could only look ahead and see wdiat fate awaits every 
one of them in the way of hardships and privations amid 
those frozen mountains and unspeakably depressing gorges 


and canons, tliey would not leave a thing undone to insure 
some greater degree of comfort and to protect their lives. 
Suicide comes cheaper in low latitudes than in the frigid 
North, and funerals cost less. Consider that it takes a week 
to dig a grave at Dawson, and crape sells for twenty-two dol- 
lars a yard. 

If they could stand where I did not long ago, on the 
summit of Chilkoot Pass, and look below, down through 
the bald and frozen gorge, upon the camp fires of several 
hundred haggard, gold-hungry men on their way to Daw- 
son, they would have some idea of what going to seek a 
fortune in mining in the Arctic Circle means. Used as I 
am to the severities and grim hardships of life, that scene 
at Chilkoot Pass was very imju^essive. I saw companies of 
men wearily working their way, in the face of a gale that 
seemed strong enough to topple over the very mountain 
peaks, up the rocky, tortuous trail to the toj) of the pass. 
Every man looked a picture of distress. I know that I did. 
They all slept in snowbanks, ate frozen canned food, and 
risked a thousand mortal ailments from ex]iosure. 

Another point to be strongly impressed upon those start- 
ing out is that they should sail northward only in a first-class 
ship. Some of the best vessels have had narrow escapes 
from shipwreck, and others have been lost. The doniaiid 
for sailing vessels has called into the service many on wliidi 
it is unsafe to risk life. There are chances enongh for a 
sudden death after Alaska is reacheil witliunt iiiciiiTing any 
more than are necessary l)efore disend)arkiiig. 

All packages should be marked clearly with (iistiiictive 
characters which can be easily and readily recognized in 
addition to the name and address. Tin's will be found very 
scrviceal)le wlum a shi])'s enlire cargo is diniipcd on eillier 


the Skagwny or Dyca beach without anv thought of the 
owners; and wlien it is essential to have them picked out and 
placed farther up on the beach in a short time. 

Take no trunks. They are about as difficult to get over 
the passes as six-story buildings. The Indians will not 
touch them, and they are apt to make a sled unmanageable. 
N"o package of more than a hundred pounds should be al- 
lowed, and the more that can be packed in bags the better. 
Flour should be i)iit in fifty-pound sacks and two of these 
slipped into a strong bag. Oil-skin sacks are a good thing 
in rainy weather and in shooting the rapids, but in cold 
weather they often become brittle and break. It will be 
difficult, if not impossible, to reach the Yukon without hav- 
ing some of the goods damaged or spoiled. Flour will get 
wet, and the best of it will, very likely, have to be dug out 
from a surrounding layer of dough. Sugar is even more 
difficult to handle successfully in wet weather. If a part 
of it gets damp the whole will have a tendency to turn to 
syrup, unless the weather is freezing, when it will become as 
hard as quartz. Salt is likely to be affected in much the 
same way. 

Supplies which can be obtained in compressed form, 
such as tea, are best to take, for the less bulk the better. I 
have found canned goods always serviceable, though one 
gets very tired of them. Bacon and beans can be easily 
managed, and generally constitute a staple article of diet. 
If you use tobacco, take along plenty of it. It is as good as 
money on the Yukon, better than paper money. The In- 
dians will take no money but coin. 

As to clothing, the principal difference between Alaska 
and a milder clime is that the former requires much heavier 
underclothing. Too heavy outer garments only impede 


the movements of the limbs and really do not keep out the 
wind. Fur coats might seem valuable, and some will say 
that they are. They are most usually worn when people 
are having their pictures taken to send home to their friends. 
A good fur blanket or robe is, however, well-nigh indis- 
pensable. People in Alaska, as everywhere else, have dif- 
ferent tastes, and in these matters you will know better how 
to suit your own after spending a winter there. 

Take needles, thread, buttons, comb, brush, looking- 
glass, and such other toilet and domestic articles as you 
need; also a ball of twine, sail-needles, and wax. Make a 
canvas-case with pockets to hold these things — one that 
can be rolled up and tied. Take also fishing-tackle and shot- 
guns. It is a great mistake to take anything except what is 
absolutely necessary if the trip is made overland. The jour- 
ney is long and arduous, and a man should not add one pound 
of baggage to his outfit that can be dispensed with. Men 
have loaded themselves up with rifles and revolvers, which is 
entirely unnecessary. Kevolvers will get you into trouble, 
and there is no use of taking them with you, as large game 
is rarely found on the trip. Persons who have prospected 
through this region for some years have seen few moose. 
You will not now see any large game whatever on your trip 
from Dyea to Dawson. wShot-guns are handy for geese. 

When on the trail there are a hundred little essentials 
which can be neglected only to the greatest discomfort and 
possible peril. Jack Dalton, who is one of the most expert 
and experienced of men in following Alaskan trails, once 
laid down the following set of rules for a small party, and 
they contain many useful suggestions tersely expressed: 

"Establish camp rules, especially regarding the fooil. 
Allot rations, those while idle to be less than when at work, 

556 JACK dalton's rules of the trail 

and also pro rata during heat and cold. Pitch the tent on 
top of the snow, pushing the poles and pegs down into it. 
While some are busily engaged in building a fire and mak- 
ing a bed, let the best cook of the party prepare the sup- 
per. If you have no stove, build a camp fire, either on an 
exposed point of rock or in a hole dug in the snow; if you 
have a stove, arrange it on a " gridiron " inside the tent, the 
gridiron consisting of three poles some six or eight feet long, 
and laid on the snow, on which the stove is placed. The 
heat from the stove will soon melt a hole underneath, but 
there will be enough firm snow under the ends of the poles 
to hold it up. For the bed, cut hemlock brush and lay it on 
the snow to a depth of a foot or more, and cover this with a 
large square of canvas on which blankets and robes are put. 
When finished it forms a natural spring bed, which will 
offer grateful rest after hauling a sled all day. I» all ex- 
cept the most sheltered locations the tent is necessary for 
comfort, and the stove gives better satisfaction than the 
camp-fire, and, as it needs but little wood, is easier to cook 
over, and does not poison the ej^es wdth smoke. 

" There are fewer cases of snow-blindness among those 
who use stoves than among those who crowd around a smok- 
ing camp-fire for cooking or warmth. Comfort in making 
a trip of this kind will depend, in a gTeat measure, upon the 
convenience of camping, suitable clothing and light, warm 
bedding. Choose your bunk as far from the tent door as 
possible, and keep a fire hole open near your camp. If by 
any chance you are traveling across a plain (no trail) and a 
fog comes up, or a blinding snowstorm, either of which will 
prevent your taking your bearings, camp, and don't move 
for any one until all is clear again. 

" If it is ever necessary to cache a load of provisions 


put all articles next to the gToiind wbieli will be most af- 
fected bv beat, providing, at tbe same time, tbat dampness 
will not afl'ect tbeir food properties to any great extent. 
After piling your stuff, load it over carefully witb beavy 
rocks. I'ake your compass bearings and also note in your 
pocketbook some landmarks near by, and also tbe direction 

in wliicli tbey lie from your cacbe i. e., make your caobe, 

if possible, come between exactly north and south of two 
given prominent marks, so that you can find it. 

" Keep your furs in good repair. One little slit may 
cause you untold agony during a march in a heavy storm. 
You cannot tell when such will be the case. If your furs 
get wet, dry them in a medium temperature. Don't hold 
them near a fire. Keep your sleeping bag clean. If it 
becomes inhabited, freeze the inhabitants out. Keep all 
your draw-strings on clothing in good repair. Don't forget 
to use your goggles when the sun is bright on snow. A fel- 
low is often tempted to leave them oif. Don't you do it. 
A little dry grass or hay in the inside of your mittens, next 
your hands, will promote great heat, especially when it gets 
damp from the moisture of your hands. After the mittens 
are removed from the hands, remove the hay and dry it. 
Failing that, throw it away. Be sure, during the winter, to 
watch your footgear carefully. Change wet stockings be- 
fore they freeze or vou may lose a toe or foot." 

Remember that if intending to build a boat for travel 
down the Yukon the start shoidd be early enough to reach 
the lower lakes when the ice goes out. Usually the lakes 
remains frozen until late in May. The Lewis and the up- 
per Yukon open a week to a fortnight earlier. Last year 
the ice broke on Lake Lebarge in the last of AFay, at l^aw- 
son on the I7th of May, at Fort Yukon three days after- 


wards, three liiiiKlrcd miles furtlier down on the 23d of 
May, and at the nioutli somewhat hiter. The first steamer 
for the season reached Dawson on June 2d, having voyaged 
from winter quarters beloAV Circle City. 

Uo not beguile yourself with the thought that working 
down the river in open water is at all easy. The Yukon 
has as many moods as a woman, and presents problems which 
few men are capable of solving in a hurr}^, and some which 
have to be solved in a hurry or it may be too late. 

Finally, I would advise the man on his way to the Klon- 
dike to go to some creek on the American side of that re- 
gion — that is, unless he has special reasons for going to the 
Klondike to seek golden placers. I mean that if he in- 
tends merely to go as a tenderfoot to prospect for gold, he 
will now stand about as good a chance of finding riches on 
the American side of the line as on the Canadian, and he 
will not only avoid the impost duties of Canada, but he will 
save the rather expensive legal procedure of locating claims 
under the Canadian mining law^s. Besides, most of us who 
have been in the Klondike region think the richest finds 
of gold in the near future will be principally on the Ameri- 
can side. Several hundred men in Dawson and Circle City 
who have vainly sought gold in the Klondike for months 
have begun vigorous prospecting on the American side. 
Some of them are crack prospectors, and that is why we 
need not be surprised to hear of rich finds in our own Alaska 
before long. 



Los Angeles 

l^-Xbiivbook is DUE on the last date stamped below. 




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